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A member of the B-vitamin complex, pantothenic acid is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in all body processes that require energy. Although the vitamin is essential in human nutrition, because of its pervasiveness in foods, the only documented cases of pantothenic acid deficiency are those produced in test subjects placed on a B-5 deficient diet. The form of the vitamin most commonly used in B-complex and multivitamin supplements is calcium pantothenate. Pantethine, an active metabolite of vitamin B-5, is also available as a supplement, but its activity in the body is markedly different from that of pantothenic acid.
While all foods contain at least some pantothenic acid, some of the richest sources include liver and other organ meats, milk, fish, poultry, and whole grains.
Pantothenic acid is required for the production of coenzyme A (CoA) and acyl carrier protein (ACP), compounds that play crucial roles in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats for energy production, and in the manufacture of red blood cells and adrenal hormones.
The reference daily intake (RDI) for pantothenic acid is 10 mg/day, an amount easily obtained through food sources. Because excess pantothenic acid is excreted through urine, the vitamin has no known toxicity, even at very high doses.