The body uses pantothenic acid (better known as vitamin B 5) to make proteins as well as other important chemicals needed to metabolize fats and carbohydrates. Pantothenic acid is also used in the manufacture of hormones, red blood cells, and acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter (signal carrier between nerve cells).

As a supplement, pantothenic acid has been proposed as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, enhancing sports performance, and fighting stress in general.

In the body, pantothenic acid is converted to a related chemical known as pantethine. For reasons that are not clear, pantethine supplements (but not pantothenic acid supplements) appear to reduce blood levels of triglycerides and possibly also improve the cholesterol profile.

The word pantothenic comes from the Greek word meaning "everywhere," and pantothenic acid is indeed found in a wide range of foods. For this reason, pantothenic acid deficiency is rare. The official US and Canadian recommendations for daily intake of pantothenic acid are as follows:

  • Infants
    • 0-6 months: 1.7 mg
    • 7-12 months: 1.8 mg
  • Children
    • 1-3 years: 2 mg
    • 4-8 years: 3 mg
    • 9-13 years: 4 mg
  • Males and Females
    • 14 years and older: 5 mg
  • Pregnant Women: 6 mg
  • Nursing Women: 7 mg

Brewer's yeast, torula (nutritional) yeast, and calf liver are excellent sources of pantothenic acid. Peanuts, mushrooms, soybeans, split peas, pecans, oatmeal, buckwheat, sunflower seeds, lentils, rye flour, cashews, and other whole grains and nuts are good sources as well, as are red chili peppers and avocados. Pantethine is not found in foods in appreciable amounts.