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B5 is everywhere, and that's good

June 21, 2004|Elena Conis

Pantothenic acid -- also known as vitamin B5 -- was first identified in the 1930s, when it was named for the Greek word pantos, meaning "everywhere." The essential vitamin, which the body uses to manufacture hormones and cholesterol and turn food into energy, is found in many foods, including cereals, grains, fish, eggs, organ meats and vegetables. It's particularly abundant in avocados, peanuts and brown rice.

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Uses: The vitamin comes in two forms, calcium pantothenate and pantethine, which are used in efforts to treat a host of conditions, including high cholesterol, rheumatoid arthritis, acne, lupus, stress, migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, heartburn and nasal congestion caused by allergies. Because the vitamin is abundant in most diets, few people take it to avoid a deficiency.

Dose: Recommendations for treating specific conditions range from 100 milligrams twice a day to 500 milligrams three times a day, taken in pill form with meals. Many multivitamin supplements contain vitamin B5 in amounts ranging from a few to more than 25 milligrams.

Precautions: Doses of several grams a day or more can cause diarrhea.

Research: Animal studies show that pantothenic acid can protect against the harmful effects of radiation and speed wound healing. Evidence from animal and a few human studies suggests that supplemental pantothenic acid in the form of calcium pantothenate can ease the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Lab evidence shows it may also help control migraines and stress by regulating hormone levels, but more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness in humans.

Dietary supplement makers are not required by the U.S. government to demonstrate that their products are safe or effective. Ask your health-care provider for advice on selecting a brand.

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-- Elena Conis

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