By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 29 March 2012)
Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5, is a popular “anti-stress” vitamin. It’s used to treat a variety of conditions, ranging from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder to depression and irritability to autistic symptoms. Some believe that it can reduce anxiety, enhance athletic performance, and boost immune function. However, evidence for its efficacy in treating these conditions is largely anecdotal. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t help, but there has not been sufficient research conducted to prove its efficacy for any of these uses, and research that has been undertaken has yielded conflicting results for many conditions (U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health, 2011).
Rationale for Use of Vitamin Supplements as an Autism Treatment
Vitamin therapies for autistic spectrum disorder symptoms are premised on the belief that those with autism are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, or require more of them for some reason. Pantothenic acid deficiency is quite rare in humans. When induced experimentally in volunteers, symptoms include fatigue, insomnia, headache, intestinal disturbances, and tingling or numbness in the feet and hands. A pantothenic acid antagonist (substance that prevents pantothenic acid from working) used in Japan to treat other conditions occasionally had the side effect of rendering the liver unable to eliminate toxins, which resulted in abnormal brain function. This condition was reversed via pantothenic acid supplementation (Higdon et al., 2008).
Unfortunately, there is no solid evidence regarding the efficacy of pantothenic acid for treating autistic symptoms but many people swear by it as an anxiety remedy and it does support adrenal glad function (Bourne, 2005), so there are reasons to assume that it may help people cope with stress.
Pantothenic acid may help to reduce the stress and anxiety that can trigger symptoms such as trantrums, rage attacks, panic attacks, and other distressing problems, and it’s a relatively safe supplement that only triggers side effects at very high doses. However, you should always consult a doctor before administering supplements to treat any condition, particularly when treating children.
B vitamins work best when taken as a complex (all the B vitamins together), so pantothenic acid may increase the effectiveness of vitamin B6, a supplement that has shown great promise for treating autistic symptoms.
Natural Sources of Vitamin B5/Calcium Pantothenate
It’s always best to get vitamins via natural sources whenever possible, because they work synergistically with other nutrients in whole foods. Good natural sources of vitamin B5 include avocados, chicken, eggs, milk, yogurt, lentils, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, split peas, and mushrooms.
For more on the effectiveness of various supplements for treating autistic spectrum disorders, see the main Autism Supplements page. For a full list of articles on autism and Asperger’s syndrome, visit the main Autistic Spectrum Disorders page.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical consultation or care. Health concerns should be referred to a doctor.
- Bourne, Edmund J., PhD. (2005). The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
- Higdon, J., PhD; Drake, V.J., PhD; & Plesofsky, N., PhD (Reviwer). (2008). “Pantothenic Acid.” Linus Pauling Institute, LPI.OregonState.edu.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health. (2011). “Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5).” MedlinePlus, NLM.NIH.gov.