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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.
Inconsistent evidence from small double-blind trials suggest that pantethine might lower blood levels of triglycerides and, to a lesser extent, cholesterol . 1 High triglycerides, like high cholesterol, increase risk of heart disease and strokes. Some people have only modestly elevated cholesterol but very high triglycerides, so pantethine may be especially useful for them.
Weak evidence hints that pantothenic acid might be helpful for rheumatoid arthritis . 2 Pantothenic acid is also recommended as an athletic performance enhancer , but there is no evidence at all that it works. It is also sometimes referred to as an anti-stress nutrient because it plays a role in the function of the adrenal glands, but whether it really helps the body withstand stress is not known.
No significant side effects have been reported for pantothenic acid or pantethine, used by themselves or with other medications. As noted above, pantethine has been used in people with diabetes, without apparent adverse effects. However, maximum safe dosages for young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with serious liver or kidney disease have not been established.