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Supplements Descriptions

by Gary F. Zeolla

Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) is a component of folic acid. It is sometimes classified as a B vitamin, but it has no potency or nutritional significance outside of ties role as a portion of folic acid. The only verified function of PABA is as a sunscreen in suntan lotion. Large doses can cause nausea and vomiting (Somer, p.322).

PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) is often grouped with the B vitamins, but by prevailing criteria it is not a vitamin in man. It is widely distributed in nature and also produced in the intestines. There is no established requirement and no known deficiency or toxicity. PABA is used on the skin as a sunscreen agent. Claims that it prevents hair loss and graying of hair are not justified (Parsonnet, pp. 55,56).

Given the above, there would appear to be little reason to supplement with PABA. However, PABA gained some notoriety when way back in 1944. An experiment was done where prisoners with graying hair were given supplemental PABA. 15-20% saw a restoration of their normal hair color. However, more recent studies have not been able to duplicate even that level of minor effects in that regard.

In searching the Internet about PABA, I found many sites that made claims like the following:

Common deficiency [symptoms] of vitamin PABA are loss of sex drive; constipation. general fatigue, irritability, depression, nervousness, graying hair, headache, and constipation or other digestive symptoms may occur (Article Karma).

However, if there were in fact “deficiency symptoms” of PABA, it would be classified as a vitamin. But as the first quotes above indicate, that simply is not the case. But still, many of the supposed deficiency symptoms described me rather well. Most notably was every site I checked listed “fatigue” as one of these symptoms.

Since I struggle everyday with fatigue from fibromyalgia, and since supplemental PABA is rather inexpensive, I figured it was worth a try. I purchased a bottle of Twinlab’s PABA Caps. But in researching PABA, I really could not get a good indication of how much should be taken. Some sites indicated that common supplement levels were 100- 400 mg per day, but other talked about using several grams a day. And causing me some concern was some sites indicated some people might be allergic to the PABA molecule, while others said that vertigo was a possible side effect. But that was said to be only a problem if you took several grams a day.

Since the Twinlab PABA Caps contained 500 mg, I figured I’d just take one capsule a day. But after just two days, I ran into problems. About two hours after I took the PABA, I got very light-headed and felt like the room was spinning. Fortunately, I was sitting down at the time. But I almost fell out of my chair. It lasted about a minute or two, but then reoccurred a few minutes later. Needless to say, I didn’t take the PABA again. But I continued to have less serious episodes of vertigo for the next 48 hours.

Now, maybe I am especially sensitive to PABA. But I would say that given the complete lack of evidence or established need for PABA, don’t bother with it as a supplement. And multiples that include PABA in them are simply doing so as an advertising ploy, so they can claim their supplement has more nutrients than a competitor’s. But there is no logical reason to include it.


Article Karma. PABA - Benefits, Deficiency Symptoms And Food Sources.

Parsonnet, Mia. M.D. What’s in Our Food? Madison books: New York, 1996.

Somer, Elizabeth, M.A., R.D. The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. New York: HarperPaperback, 1992.

PABA Caps. Copyright 2008 by Gary F. Zeolla.

Twinlab's PABA Caps are available at: iHerb and Amazon.
For iHerb, Use coupon code HOP815 to get $5.00 off your first order.

The above article was posted on this site May 3, 2008.

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