The Vitamin B 5 Acne Theory Debunked
The vitamin b 5 acne theory, proposed by Dr. Lit-Hung Leung, is neither conclusive nor proven.
Central to the theory is his belief that when there is not enough vitamin b5 in the body, the body will prefer to use its stores of vitamin b5 for androgen hormone production, instead of fatty acid metabolism. Vitamin B5 is involved in both.
However, there is no evidence to prove this. Leung's vitamin b 5 acne belief was based on the assumption that "Nature will seek to take care of the synthesis of hormones first, because continuation of the species depends on the development of the sex organs."
He believes that the body will see sex hormone production as more important than fatty acid metabolism, but this logic is seriously flawed, as well as unproven. Fatty acid metabolism is in fact essential to life, given that the cell membrane of every cell in the body is composed of fatty acids, and the fatty acids themselves have a wide range of other functions. The following is a list of some of those functions:
they increase metabolic rate in our body when present in levels above 12-15% of total calories
used for hormone-like functions that affect many tissues in the body (they are the precursors of prostaglandins)
constructs cell membranes
create electrical potentials for cellular activity
can be used for fuel for energy
attract and help transfer oxygen on a cellular level
used in nerve impulses, by the brain, the sense organs, adrenal glands, the testes
can buffer excess acid and excess base in our system. This relates to our body's ph balance. A typical western diet often leads to a condition of excess acidity, which has been related to disease conditions
As can be seen, fatty acids have a more direct role in the maintenance and health of the body than some vague notion about the continuation of the species. If the existing members of the species are compromised in health by poor fatty acid levels, it hardly bodes well for any continuation of the species. So, by his own logic, it could actually be argued that the body would use its vitamin b 5 stores for androgen hormone metabolism in preference to fatty acid metabolism, which completely undermines the premise of the whole vitamin b 5 acne theory.
The fact that vitamin b5 deficiency is very rare except on cases of actual malnourishment (think prisoners of war in concentration camps), is neatly sidestepped in the vitamin b 5 acne premise with the statement that "After all, when so many reactions are dependent on the same agent, its demand must be tremendous. Shortage under such circumstances is not entirely impossible."
This facet of the vitamin b 5 acne theory is completely unsupported by nutritional data. You can be sure that if we were prone to a vitamin B5 deficiency, not only would someone have noticed, but governments would be fortifying our food with it like they do with so many vitamins.
The Linus Pauling Institute also say that "a specialized process for the uptake of biotin and pantothenic acid was recently identified in cultured cells derived from the lining of the colon, suggesting that humans may be able to absorb pantothenic acid and biotin produced by the bacteria normally present in the colon". (Source: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/pa/)
So, not only do we have ample opportunity to get sufficient vitamin b5 in food, but our bacteria also make it and it looks like we can absorb and use it too. (Pantothenic acid is another name for vitamin b5).
To support Leung's vitamin b 5 acne belief that a shortage of B5 is "not entirely impossible", the levels of vitamin b5 in the body at which the body is no longer able to fulfill its regular functions need to be established. Funnily enough, I believe they have - the Recommended Daily Allowance published by every government based on the substantial scientific and medical data available. And the minimum levels of vitamin B5 needed, as per those recommendations, is 5mg per day. Its a big stretch to go from 5mg per day to 8,000 to 10,000 mg per day, as he suggests. That is going way beyond his pretty theories about providing the body with enough vitamin b5 to make sure it doesn't stop fatty acid metabolism, even assuming it were true.
And, there is a big difference between what is "not entirely possible", and what is probable - or in fact, what is actually occurring.
By Leung's own admission: "Lipid metabolism is a complicated process, and is often intertwined with other metabolic processes, sharing with them common coenzymes in widely different reactions." Yet he simplifies all of this by citing only the role of vitamin B5.
He goes on to say: "When there is an increase in level of some of these coenzymes, there may be a shift in the directions of some ongoing reactions, and may affect lipid metabolism as a result. This can manifest clinically as acne vulgaris. To illustrate this, there are reports showing that acne may be induced by administration of large doses of vitamin B12 alone or in combination with B6. Cessation of the administration of these vitamins will bring a halt to the acne eruptions."
Given that taking any B vitamin in excess, without also taking the other B vitamins in the same increased proportions (as I discuss in this article on b5 supplements for acne), all this proves is that the large doses of vitamin B12or B6 caused a deficiency in the other B vitamins, and that overall imbalance led to acne.
Taking large doses of vitamin B 5 for acne may not cause acne itself, but it will also throw the other B vitamins out of balance and cause a deficiency. So, you will get symptoms in other areas. This has been reported by people who tried the vitamin b 5 acne regimen.
One person who used vitamin b 5 acne supplements at dosages of 8 grams per day, found his acne improved. After two and a half months, he started to cut down to 2 grams per day, as suggested, but found his acne came back within a week. So he went back to 8 grams daily, for a total of about 5 months all up.
He discontinued taking those mega doses of vitamin b 5 acne aupplements when he found that the severe cuts, more like gashes which made it painful to talk, laugh and eat, were not healing. The doctor told him that the gashes were the result of either an allergy, or a vitamin deficiency. Now, remember that taking large doses of any B vitamin will cause a deficiency in the others, and that the B vitamins as a group are involved in the health of the mouth and the immune system.
An interesting thing started to happen when this man stopped taking vitamin b 5 acne supplements. He had been experiencing other symptoms too:
"I had slowly become increasingly frail, fragile, and diseased over the past five months. I was always very tired and very nauseous. I had developed severe gastrointestinal problems whenever I ate anything at all. My skin had become extremely dry and rough. I would get dizzy after walking even the shortest distances. I had developed a case of insomnia. I was always angry and irritable. Most importantly, I had developed a prostate problem. I was constantly urinating(this is probably why my skin was dry. I think the pantothenic acid was dehydrating me). I had extreme muscle tension in my groin area making it very hard to sleep or exercise(as if I had the strength in the first place). I was just incredibly sick in too many ways to describe. I felt plain awful." (Source: http://askwaltstollmd.com/archives/acne/71477.html)
These symptoms all stopped or were greatly improved within 3 days of no longer taking vitamin b 5 acne supplements.
This acne sufferer also said that he felt far worse taking such high doses of vitamin b5 acne supplements than he felt when taking accutane. And as he points out, at least accutane is taken under a doctor's supervision.
Many people have reported success with taking vitamin b5 acne supplements for their acne symptoms, but there are significant side effects that can have far reaching consequences for health, and the quality of life one has. Given that there are other alternative vitamin b 5 acne treatments that have fewer side effects, it does not make sense to take vitamin b5 for acne, no matter how 'pretty' the vitamin b 5 acne theory sounds.