B vitamins are essential for a number of processes in the body from converting food into energy to the development of healthy skin, nails and hair. Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B-5, is one of the eight vitamins making up the B vitamin complex. While it is present in most foods, foods that are highly processed are low in pantothenic acid. Eating whole, minimally processed foods will ensure you have enough pantothenic acid and that you can take advantage of its many health benefits.
One of the functions of pantothenic acid is to produce cholesterol. Recent research suggests pantethine, a derivative of pantothenic acid, can help lower levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). For instance, a study published in 2011 in the journal "Nutrition Research" examined the effects of pantethine on the cardiovascular disease risk of 120 individuals. Subjects followed a low-cholesterol diet and either took pantethine or a placebo for 16 weeks. At the end of the study, people taking the pantethine had lower LDL and total cholesterol levels than those with the low cholesterol diet alone.
Pantothenic acid has been shown to help the body heal wounds, particularly after surgery. For instance, a 1998 study published in "The International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research" demonstrates the benefit of calcium, vitamin D and pantothenate, a derivative of pantothenic acid, on the wound healing process when applied directly to the wound, as you would with a cream. The combination of calcium, vitamin D and pantothenate helped increase protein synthesis and the number of cells brought to the wound to enhance healing.
Recommended Daily Intake
Because pantothenic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, it is not stored in the body and you must get it from your diet or a supplement every day. The Institute of Medicine recommends adult men and women get 5 milligrams of pantothenic acid each day. It is considered safe to exceed the daily recommended amount, though, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, very high doses of pantothenic acid may cause diarrhea or bleeding.
Pantothenic acid is found in a variety of foods. Dairy products, chicken, eggs, cooked lentils, broccoli, avocado and sweet potatoes are the best sources of pantothenic acid. Whole grains and whole-grain cereals are also good sources of the vitamin, though processing grains may lead to up to a 75 percent loss of pantothenic acid from the food. Eating a diet high in fresh vegetables, meats and whole, minimally processed grains will ensure you're meeting your daily requirements for pantothenic acid.