It is a white crystalline substance and slightly soluble in water but highly soluble in alcohol.
Para-aminobenzoic acid or PABA is a non-protein amino acid that is extensively found in nature. It is sometimes referred to as vitamin Bx, but it is neither a vitamin nor an essential nutrient for humans. PABA is an intermediate in the synthesis of folic acid in bacteria. The sulfonamide antibiotics are structurally similar to PABA and interfere with the synthesis of nucleic acids in sensitive microorganisms by blocking the conversion of PABA to the co-enzyme dihydrofolic acid, a reduced form of folic acid. In humans, dihydrofolic acid is obtained from dietary folic acid; thus sulfonamides do not affect human cells. PABA is also known as 4-aminobenzoic acid.
Following ingestion, PABA is passively absorbed mainly from the small intestine. From there, it enters the portal circulation. Some metabolism of PABA occurs in the liver. PABA and its metabolites are mainly excreted in the urine. Small amounts are eliminated in the feces and in bile, milk and other secretions.
Sources of PABA:
It is widely distributed in animal tissues and also found in wheat germ, rice bran and polishing and milk.
PABA is found in liver, kidney, brewer’s yeast, molasses, whole grains, mushrooms and spinach, and can be made by intestinal bacteria.
Benefits of PABA:
Essential for the growth. It has the similar chemical structure as that of sulphonamides so it prevents the bacteriostatic properties of the drug.
It maintains the growth and lactation and also helps to preserve the natural color of the hair. It forms a portion of the folic acid.
PABA is used to improve the protein used in the body, it also helps in the red blood cell formation as well as helps in synthesizing folic acid in the intestines. Para-amino benzoic acid is used in sunscreen preparations since it can help to protect the skin against ultra-violet radiation.
It has also been related to hair growth as well as prevents the graying of hair, but these results are disappointing. People suffering from vitiligo, over-pigmentation of skin, or without pigment in some spots, have reported an improvement of the skin after more PABA was ingested.
PABA also helps with breaking down of protein, the formation of red blood cells and maintaining intestinal flora.
Might be responsible for achromotrichia in man due to changes in the intestinal flora.
Production of gray hair has also been postulated due to deficiency.
Deficiency may also result in fatigue, irritability, nervousness and depression as well as constipation. Moist eczema has also been noted in people with PABA deficiency as well as patchy areas on the skin.
It is best used with vitamin C and B group vitamins and folic acid.
Symptoms of toxicity
When higher than factor (SPF) 8 sunscreens are used, the manufacture of vitamin D in the body may be reduced. It may result in nausea, skin rashes and vomiting when PABA taken in excess.
Excessive levels of PABA are stored in the body and may cause liver damage.
Anorexia, nausea, vomiting, fever and rash have been reported, with larger doses of PABA. These symptoms resolve when PABA is stopped.
No recommended dosage but 50 mg per day is usually used in supplementation.
When more may be required
People who use antibiotic for a long time may require more PABA from the body, but take note of PABA affecting the ability of sulfa drugs. Although not documented in medical terms, some women having problems falling pregnant claim conceiving after increasing PABA in their diet.
Children, pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid PABA. PABA should be used with caution in those with renal disease. If anorexia or nausea occurs, PABA should be stopped until the person is eating normally again. PABA should be stopped if
hypersensitivity develops. Those taking pharmaceutical doses of PABA must be under medical supervision.
Some more information about PABA
A retrospective review reported on 32 Peyronie’s disease patients treated for at least three months with 12 grams daily of potassium PABA preparation (POTABA) and followed for 8 to 24 months. Improvement in penile discomfort was demonstrated in 8 of 18 patients, decreased plaque size was reported in 18 of 32 patients, improvement in penile angulations in 18 of 31 patients. No harmful effects were noted.
Another retrospective review analyzed skin responses of scleroderma patients to potassium para-aminobenzoate therapy. Ninety percent of 224 patients treated with about 12 grams daily of potassium Para-benzoate (POTABA) experienced mild, moderate or marked skin softening. Among a parallel group of 96 evaluable scleroderma patients who did not receive potassium Para-benzoate, less than 20% had mild or moderate improvement at the end of follow-up. The difference in skin softening in the treated group, compared to the untreated group, was statistically significant, and no significant adverse events were reported. Clinical improvement was noted in two dermatomyositis patients treated with 15 to 20 grams of potassium Para-benzoate daily. Adequate clinical trials are necessary before any conclusion can be drawn regarding the possible effectiveness of PABA for dermatomyositis.
There are anecdotal reports that PABA can reduce or stop hair loss and prevent graying hair; there are at least as many reports that contradict these claims.
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