Vitamin B5 101: a Beginners Guide

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Together with the other B vitamins, Vitamin B5 helps your body make red blood cells and convert your next meal into much-needed energy.

The good news is Vitamin B5 is present in basically *all* the foods so deficiency is super rare. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a review!

Vitamin B5: What is it good for and why do I need it?

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Vitamin B5 is just one of *eight* essential B vitamins. Together, they keep you running on all cylinders.

Here’s how B5 helps:

  • makes and breaks down fats for energy
  • promotes red blood cell formation
  • supports healthy hair, skin, and nails
  • nurtures your liver
  • synthesizes cholesterol
  • keeps your nervous system healthy

Without a healthy dose of B vitamins, you’d be struggling with daily energy, rebuilding damaged tissue, strengthening muscles, and keeping all your organs functioning.

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So, what’s the best place to get a natural vitamin B5 boost? Your plate.

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There are *at least* four important ways that B5 boosts your health.

Coenzyme A processing. This is perhaps B5’s greatest achievement. Vitamin B5 helps make coenzyme A, which converts your meals into fatty acids and cholesterol (the good kind!). Coenzyme A also helps your liver filter drugs and toxins, which is pretty important for your overall health.

Digestion optimization. What’s the point in popping vitamins and supplements if your body doesn’t do a good job absorbing them? One of B5’s roles is helping your body digest things — including other vitamins.

In one animal study, geese that ingested vitamin B5 grew faster and were better at digesting and converting fats into energy. (Take that connection with a bucket of salt since, y’know, you’re not a goose.)

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Skin plumping. Several older studies suggest that B5 can moisturize your dry, irritated, or inflamed skin. TBH, we need more research to understand what it does for skin — and how much is needed — but results are promising.

Cholesterol management. Preliminary research suggests that taking vitamin B5 might help reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Friendly reminder: Talk to your doctor before supplementing, especially if you have underlying health probs.

For acne

Some B5 supplements are marketed toward folks with severe breakouts, but research is slim.

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The results of one 2014 study were promising: 41 folks with mild or moderate acne took vitamin B5 supplements for 8 weeks. At the end of the trial, the participants reported significantly fewer zits.

That’s great news, but we need more evidence to prove that it was vitamin B5 that truly triggered the healing.

For hair probs

Many skin creams and hair products contain dexpanthenol, a chemical made from vitamin B5. That’s because it has a reputation for improving hair and skin texture.

A single older study (way back in 2011) did find that applying panthenol, a form of vitamin B5, to your scalp could prevent hair thinning.

How much vitamin B5 do I even need?

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The adequate daily intake (AI) for vitamin B5 is:

If you’re pregnant aim for 6 milligrams per day, then up that to 7 milligrams per day when breastfeeding.

According to the National Institutes of Health, there haven’t been any reported pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) overdoses, so there’s no universal upper limit (UL).

Basically, if you eat a generally healthy diet, you should be getting enough — and not too much — of your daily B5.

Should I be taking a vitamin B5 supplement?

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People take B5 supplements for many, many reasons. Some claim it helps arthritis. Others pop B5 pills for healthier skin and nails. But, there isn’t much evidence that ingesting more will solve any health issues because you’re probably already getting enough from your food!

But if you suspect that you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, definitely talk with your doc. You’re more like to be low in something like iron or zinc than B5… but it’s worth checking!

Some folks *might* benefit from taking a B-complex supplement, but they’re more likely to be deficient in one of the other B vitamins. This includes:

  • pregnant people
  • people who are breastfeeding
  • older adults
  • people eating strictly plant-based

Only one known condition puts you at a high risk for B5 deficiency: Pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration 2 mutation (formerly known as Hallervorden- Spatz syndrome).

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Again, this is really rare, but the most common side effects of a vitamin B5 deficiency include:

  • headache
  • exhaustion
  • irritability
  • restless sleep
  • numb or burning hands and feet

There’s no evidence that you can overdo vitamin B5 through food, but signs you’ve gone overboard on B5 supplements include:

  • diarrhea
  • upset stomach

tl;dr

Vitamin B5 is one of eight B vitamins that help your body make red blood cells, convert food into energy, and more.

Tons of foods contain B5, so it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll ever need to supplement this essential vitamin.

If you’re feeling rundown or sick in general, talk with your doctor. Though you’re probably getting enough B5, you might be deficient in another vitamin or mineral.

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