Vitamin B5, the testosterone vitamin
Vitamin B5 aka pantothenic acid is involved in the production of testosterone, researchers at Gifu University in Japan discovered. The animal study they did showed that testosterone levels decrease if there is too little vitamin B5 in the body. So does vitamin B5 supplementation boost testosterone levels? That might just be the case.
Vitamin B5 [structural formula shown below] is involved in the citric acid cycle, a complex reaction in which cells convert nutrients into energy. Its also involved in the biosynthesis of cholesterol, fatty acids and acetylcholine. And if we are to believe animal studies, vitamin B5 is also involved in the processes of hair growth and wound healing.
Vitamin B5 is found in many foods, above all animal products such as meat, yoghurt and eggs, as well as in Royal Jelly, avocado and wholegrain products. Because vitamin B5 is found in so many foods deficiencies of the vitamin are rare, but they do sometimes occur.
Symptoms of vitamin B5 deficiency include listlessness, restlessness, sleep problems, stomach cramps, nausea, a painful burning feeling in the feet, and pins and needles. This last symptom is very similar to a familiar side effect of beta-alanine. Extra supplementation with vitamin B5 can alleviate this side effect, which can hardly be a coincidence.
Exercise and high fat intake
Recent Japanese research suggests that a combination of lots of exercise and a relatively high-fat diet increases the likelihood of having a sub-optimal vitamin B5 status. [J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2015;61(3):215-21.]
We have compiled the figure below from data in that study. It shows the concentration of vitamin B5 in the blood of rats that consumed a limited amount of the vitamin and also swam daily or ate relatively large amounts of fat. [For a rat, a diet consisting of 5 percent fat is normal.]
The Japanese also observed that in rats with a normal intake of vitamin B5, their vitamin B5 levels decreased as a result of the combination of frequent physical exercise and a high fat diet. The effect was less pronounced however than what we've shown above.
"The requirement for pantothenic acid in rats is synergistically increased with the combination of exercise and a high-fat diet", the Japanese researchers wrote. "These results suggest that pantothenic acid intake should be increased in the presence of exercise or a high-fat diet, and especially when these conditions are combined. Intake of adequate pantothenic acid may prevent disorders characterized by a lack of pantothenic acid."
Vitamin B5 and testosterone
The figures on the right show what happened to rats' testosterone level when they were given food that contained no vitamin B5 [PaA]. [J Vet Med Sci. 2009 Nov;71(11):1427-32.] It decreases. This is probably because of something that happens in the testes, as the absence of vitamin B5 in the diet has no effect on the secretion of the messenger hormones LH and FSH.
The researchers suspect that the decline in the testosterone level that results from a vitamin B5 deficiency occurs because of a decrease in the biosynthesis of cholesterol in the testes. The testes make testosterone from cholesterol.
Wild speculation on our part
It may just be the case that some athletes on a low-carb (and thus fat-rich) diet can boost their testosterone levels by a teeny weeny bit by taking vitamin B5. This would certainly be the case for vegetarian or vegan athletes who get no cholesterol from their diet.
J Vet Med Sci. 2009 Nov;71(11):1427-32.
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