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Pantothenic Acid (B5)

Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid, is known as the "anti-stress" vitamin. It's got a great reputation for treating fatigue, adrenal exhaustion and allergies. B5 was discovered by Dr. Roger Williams, the father of "biochemical individuality".

While studying the nutrition of yeast cells Dr. Williams discovered, isolated and made possible the synthesis of pantothenic acid, a universal B-vitamin needed by every cell in the human body. Later he concentrated folic acid, another B-vitamin, and gave it its name. At the University of Texas he founded and directed the Clayton Foundation Biochemical Institute (now called the Biochemical Institute). More vitamins and their variants were discovered in this laboratory than in any other laboratory in the world.

As a structural component of coenzyme A, B5 is vital for the proper functioning of the adrenal glands and aids the body in cell building, maintaining normal growth and developing the central nervous system. It supports the production of cortisol and other adrenal hormones in response to stress, thereby protecting the adrenal pool from devastation and massive depletion. This vitamin promotes healthy skin and strong nerves. In essence, it helps the body withstand stress, especially training-related stress and athletic-related over-reaching syndromes.

B5 aids in the synthesis of cholesterol, steroids and fatty acids and protects against premature aging due to cellular damage. Combined with calcium, it can help those who grind their teeth at night (bruxism). It's found mainly in organ meats, whole grains, green vegetables, brewer's yeast, nuts, chicken and crude molasses. Pantethine is the stable form of pantetheine, the active form of pantothenic acid.

In Natural Alternatives to Over-the-Counter and Prescription Drugs (1994), Dr. Michael Murray states that this particular form of B5 (pantethine) has been shown to reduce blood lipids and accelerate the utilization of fat as an energy source. Distance runners may find added B5 a bonus for reducing lactate. As lactate builds up in muscle cells further activity, especially intense physical activity, becomes increasingly difficult. Dieters can also benefit with high doses during a low-carb approach to fat reduction.

Coenzyme A is formed from adenosine triphosphate (ATP), cysteine and pantothenic acid. Both ATP and cysteine are formed within the body, but B5 as an essential vitamin must be obtained in adequate amounts from outside sources. To burn or oxidize fat as a fuel source, triglycerides lodged in fat cells called adipocytes must be broken down into glycerol and fatty acids. The fatty acids are fragmented into two carbon units through B-oxidation, a reaction that consumes coenzyme A yielding many fragments of acetyl-COA. All of this sounds heavy because it is. But suffice it to say that all of this biochemical gobble-de-goop is simply an explanation of how the process actually works.

Acetyl-¬CoA is metabolized through the citric acid or Krebs Cycle, releasing ATP (energy) and forming carbon dioxide and water as end products. Research in the field of weight management and obesity by LH Leung, MD, suggests that adding 10 grams (10,000 mg) of pantothenic acid (four divided doses on an empty stomach between meals) to a calorie-restricted modified diet eliminates hunger, physical weakness, cravings and prevents the formation of ketone bodies without any side effects. Lipid catabolism (lipolysis) is also significantly enhanced, which in the context of this article, is what the point is all about.

Dr. Leung has discovered that the ability to burn fat stores efficiently decreases over time and that depriving the body of food and energy leads to the depletion of glycogen stores. As the body continues to oxidize or burn fat for fuel, ketone bodies begin to appear in the bloodstream and urine. Over time, the ability to metabolize stored fat weakens and the individual starts to feel hungry, with symptoms of weakness, dizziness and sweating. If you have ever tried eliminating carbs completely to lose fat then you know exactly what I'm talking about. You feel like what dog owners routinely pick-up.

As the mechanism of fat burning forced through a voluntary calorie deficit begins to fail, ketone bodies will appear. Dr. Leung believes that the presence of ketone bodies reflects a nutrient deficiency, namely, you guessed it, pantothenic acid. For reasons not entirely understood, as fat is broken down in large quantities, not all the units of acetyl-CoA go into the Krebs cycle. Instead, some of these units combine with each other, yielding one molecule of acetoacetyl-CoA and one molecule of coenzyme A. Acetoacetyl-CoA rapidly decomposes into both acetoacetic acid and coenzyme A, and through the process of decarboxylation, acetoacetic acid becomes a ketone body called acetone. As acetone accumulates, the blood becomes too acidic, forcing their excretion via the urine and the lungs.

Processing fatty acids, especially if you have a lot to burn, depletes the body's pool of coenzyme A. By providing the body with a higher concentration of coenzyme A indirectly by taking B5, the acetyl-CoA molecules will remain intact instead of converting into acetoacetyl-CoA. Instead of accumulating, all of the acetyl-CoA fragments can enter the citric acid energy cycle, resulting in their complete metabolism. The best way to ensure adequate quantities of coenzyme A according to Leung is to provide the body with large doses of B5.

Pantothenic acid is basically non-toxic. Dr. Leung has observed no toxicity in any of his patients, with doses of 10 - 20 grams a day for periods of more than one year. His patients lost fat continuously, felt good during the process, and in most cases, their health and ability to cope with stress dramatically increased. He also feels that because of the drain on pantothenic acid pools caused by monthly menstrual cycles (B5 is crucial to the synthesis of estrogens and progesterones) and pregnancy, women can especially benefit from B5 therapy.

In addition, the lower the calorie intake, the larger the amount of B5 is required. A maintenance dose of 2 - 3 grams a day keeps the fat-burning drive active, and the individual remains robust and full of energy.

This is one of my secrets to fat loss during the final stages of my 100 Day Diet, published recently in the July/August issue of VISTA. It also helps explain why I feel somewhat normal while training and dieting like a madman. B5 has been around for ages but for some reason hardly anyone knows about its effect on enhancing fat loss in a state of ketosis. I use the powder form and add 2 grams to both my pre-workout and post-workout shake.

Next time you blow up, freak out or start crying for no good reason while dieting, reach for some B5. It may save your marriage or in the least protect you from the effects of stress.