1. What Is Acne?
Acne is a skin condition
usually characterized by clogged skin pores which may develop into whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, pustules, cysts,
or nodules. These symptoms are typically accompanied by excessively oily skin and general inflammation. There are many recognized
forms of acne, including acne vulgaris (common acne), cystic acne, acne mechanica, excoriated acne, pomade acne, acne
conglobata, and acne fulminans. A more extensive list and description of acne types may be found at the AcneNet website sponsored
by the American Academy of Dermatology.
2. What Causes Acne?
Although there are
many theories regarding the cause of acne, no one really knows for sure. One promising theory, put forth by Dr. Lit-Hung Leung,
M.D., suggests that the root cause of acne is a deficiency of dietary pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). This deficiency supposedly
reduces the body’s ability to metabolize fats which would otherwise be burned for energy. As a result, some of these
fats, which need to be eliminated from the body, are deposited as lipids (fats, oils, & waxes) in the skin’s sebaceous
This situation results in an enlargement of the sebaceous glands and the associated skin pores
as the lipids are conveyed to the surface of the skin in the form of sebum (skin oil). The normal function of sebum is to
provide lubrication for the skin. However, when excess sebum is produced, it may combine with dead skin cells and form
plugs in the pores of the skin. The excess sebum also serves as a feeding ground for the normally harmless acne bacteria (Propionobacterium acnes), which then begin to overpopulate, often infecting
the plugged pores.
Who is Dr. Lit-Hung Leung, M.D. ?
Dr. Lit-Hung Leung, M.D. is credited with discovering the link between acne and a deficiency in vitamin B5. He made
this observation while working in the Department of General Surgery at Hong Kong General Hospital where he was conducting
research on the effects of vitamin B5 on dieting and obesity. He published two reports on his research regarding obesity
and vitamin B5 in 1995, and followed with another summary report in 1997 concerning the effects of vitamin B5 on obesity and
Dr. Leung’s 1997 report was published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.
A copy of this report may be viewed via the Web Links section of this website.
Other Factors Contribute to Acne?
Yes. Factors suspected to influence the occurrence of acne include:
changes associated with puberty
such as makeup or sun tan lotion that clog pores
contact with clothing
5. Do Some Foods Contribute to Acne?
The mainstream medical community
has not been able to establish any link between acne and the foods we eat. However, they do suggest that if certain foods
are suspected of causing acne in certain individuals, then these foods should be avoided.
The work of Dr. Leung
suggests that the link between acne and food may in fact exist. Foods high in fat content, when combined with a deficiency
in the ability to metabolize these fats, could logically contribute to a worsening of acne. If your diet consists largely
of processed foods and “junk food”, a more nutritious diet could definitely be beneficial.
6. What is Vitamin
Vitamin B5 is a water soluble vitamin and a member of the B-vitamin family. Vitamin B5 contributes
to the cellular metabolism of carbohydrates and fats to release energy. It may be variously identified as…
are Vitamin B5 Supplements Supplied?
Vitamin B5 may be supplied in the following forms…
combination with other vitamins and nutrients
8. What is the Most Effective Form of Vitamin B5?
depends on whom you ask. Each provider of vitamin B5 supplements will naturally claim that their form is the best, and each
form has its advantages. The good news is that each of the forms mentioned above should provide a significant benefit, provided
they are obtained from a reputable source. The decision concerning which type to use is therefore primarily a matter of personal
In his report, Dr. Leung states that “together with pantothenic acid, biotin as well as
nicotinamide help to further improve the therapeutic results”. For this reason, it may be desirable to select a vitamin
B5 supplement that contains one or both of these ingredients.
9. Will a High Dosage
of Vitamin B5 Create a Deficiency of Other Vitamins?
One school of thought suggests that
by taking high doses of vitamin B5, the body’s ability to absorb other essential vitamins may be diminished, as the
digestive system can only absorb a limited amount of nutrients at one time. Whether this occurs when taking high dosages of
vitamin B5 is unclear.
In an e-mail response to this question, Dr. Leung has stated that he does recommend “supplementing
the intake of vitamin B5 with other B vitamins in order to avoid a vitamin deficiency syndrome of any kind”.
This appears, however, to be due primarily to the assumption that in today’s world, most people do not enjoy
diets that would normally provide a sufficient amount of necessary nutrients. This situation would hold true whether or not
one is taking vitamin B5.
10. What Side Effects
May Be Expected When Taking Vitamin B5?
The most common side effects are mild stomach irritation (similar to hunger
pangs) and loosening of the stool. These side effects usually diminish within days or weeks as the body becomes adjusted to
the B5. The stool softening may be corrected by taking a dietary fiber supplement such as Psyllium Husks, available from Puritan's
Pride, at www.puritan.com. (Note: fiber supplements can affect the absorption of medications and vitamins, so avoid taking
the fiber supplement within two hours of taking medications or supplements.) If the intake of vitamin B5 is increased to
a point where the dosage becomes excessive, one may experience flatulence and diarrhea. These symptoms should
be quickly corrected by reducing the dosage to an acceptable level.
There has been a report of
a negative interaction with Zocor posted in the B5 comments section of the website Acne.org. This experience was described
as a severe inflammation of the joints, and was corrected by discontinuing the vitamin B5.
side effects are rare, if they occur, it is best to discontinue taking vitamin B5 and consult a physician. It should also
be noted that once you start taking any supplement, there is a natural tendency to blame any subsequent discomfort, illness,
allergic reaction, etc. on that supplement, whether it is the fault of the supplement or not. Be careful to properly consider
this before abandoning the use of vitamin B5 altogether.
11. How Should I Take Vitamin
In Dr. Leung's 1995 study,
patients with moderate acne were treated with 10 grams of vitamin B5 per day in 4 divided doses. In cases involving severe
acne, some patients required up to 15-20 grams of vitamin B5 per day. Hovever, vitamin B5 supplements are manufactured
in a variety of forms. Therefore, they should be taken according to the recommendations of the manufacturer, which will vary
according to the supplement type. One good general rule is to set up a routine, and take the supplements at the same time
each day. This way, you will form a natural habit, and will not need to spend much effort remembering when to take the supplements.
It is worthwhile to note that there is some long term, minor effort
required to follow through on a regimen of this sort. For those who are experiencing considerable discomfort from their acne,
and have much to gain, this effort will seem insignificant. However, if you are experiencing only occasional and mild acne,
you may not have the incentive needed to follow the proper regimen required for good results.
12. What Results Can I Expect from Taking Vitamin B5?
Each individual is different, as are the factors affecting their skin condition.
Therefore, the degree of improvement, and the length of time needed to see improvements will vary. Keep in mind that unlike
prescription drugs, which are designed to provide quick results, vitamin therapies are more natural and slower acting. Due
to the time delay effect with vitamin B5, results may not begin to appear for several weeks.
Also, one should expect to have good days and bad days during the process of improvement. This should
not be reason to abandon the B5 regimen, as these occurences will diminish in severity and frequency over time.
13. What is the Best Way to Obtain Vitamin B5?
Vitamin B5 supplements are available from a wide variety of sources. It is best to obtain your B5 from a well
known, reputable company to insure that you are receiving a good quality product. Companies that claim 100% effectiveness,
or promise clear skin within days, should be regarded with suspicion. While vitamin B5 is effective, it may take months or
longer to experience significant improvements, depending on the severity of your condition.
If you are comfortable making your own nutritional decisions, then well established vitamin distributors such
as GNC, Twinlab, etc. may be your most economical choice.
Others who are
less comfortable making these decisions on their own may prefer to rely on a company that specializes in the use of vitamin
B5 for the treatment of acne. Many of these companies may be found on the internet. Often, these companies will provide information
resources, money-back guarantees, and live customer support, which is not available from generic vitamin distribution companies.
14. What is the Cost of Vitamin B5 Supplements?
The cost of vitamin B5 supplements will vary depending on the manufacturer, the quality of the product, the
form in which it is supplied, whether or not other nutrients are included in the formulation, the level of customer support
provided, etc. Some manufacturers also recommend taking vitamin supplements in addition to their vitamin B5, which will
add to the overall cost.
A typical cost for the Pantothen product, when purchased in bulk quantities, is about
$23 per month at the normal dosage of 4 capsules per day.
15. How is Vitamin B5 Different
from Other Acne Therapies?
The vast majority of acne treatments,
including antibiotics, skin cleansers, skin conditioners, etc., are designed to treat the symptoms of acne, but ignore the
root cause. One rare exception is the drug Accutane, which actually works to shrink the sebaceous glands and reduce the flow
of excess skin oil. Often these treatments require the use of multiple expensive products, they may involve complicated, time-consuming
application procedures, and they may carry with them the potential for significant side effects.
Vitamin B5 is unique in that it is non-prescription, effective, economical, simple to use, and has negligible
16. Why Has the Mainstream Medical Community
Been Slow to Recognize the Benefits of Vitamin B5 in the Treatment of Acne?
The answer to this question may be found by reviewing the structure of the medical industry in this country. The
practice of medicine in the United States has come to be heavily reliant on the pharmaceutical industry. The drug companies
help fund the medical schools, they provide jobs for many doctors, and they fund the majority of expensive research for new
drugs*. To recoup their costs, the drug companies invest heavily in marketing to sell their products. Their representatives
typically serve as the main conduit to bring information on new treatment therapies to practicing physicians. Invariably,
these treatment therapies involve the use of expensive patented drugs and other patented products.
The large majority of doctors are serious, hard-working (often overworked) professionals who are deeply concerned
about the well being of their patients. However, these days, they have many other concerns, including burdensome paperwork
from the insurance companies, high patient loads, strict regulatory requirements, and the constant threat of expensive
lawsuits. Under these conditions, individual doctors often have little time or incentive to perform independent research on
new therapies, and are more inclined to rely on the resources of the major drug companies to keep them informed.
This system is not all bad, since it has managed to provide us with the best medical treatment
available anywhere. The drawback, however, is that many effective treatments, such as vitamin B5, are largely bypassed by
this system. Products that are non-patentable, such as vitamin B5, provide little financial incentive for sponsorship by the
drug industry or the medical community overall.
* In 1975, the pharmaceuticals industry spent the equivalent of $100
million in today’s dollars for research and development of the average drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,
according to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. By 1987, that figure had tripled, to $300 million. By 2005,
this figure had more than quadrupled, to $1.3 billion. (Source: http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/fda_05.htm)