Chemists were aware of para-aminobenzoic acid or PABA for many years before its nutritional significance was discovered. In common with many of the other B complex vitamins, PABA was first studied in relation to bacterial function, before its possibilities for human dietetics were considered.

It is a water-soluble member of the B vitamin complex but not a true vitamin for man. 

In the past it has been known as:

  • vitamin BX
  • bacterial vitamin H
  • cosmetic factor
  • anti-grey hair factor

PABA occurs in the same foods as other B complex vitamins. Richest sources are:

  • liver
  • eggs
  • molasses
  • brewer’s yeast
  • wheatgerm

There are few statistics relating to the PABA content of foods but it is known that baker’s yeast contains between 5 – 6 mg per kg and brewer’s yeast from 10 -100 mg per kg of yeast.

PABA deficiency is unlikely because the nutrient is widely available in food and is synthesised within the body in amounts that appear to be more than adequate for most health requirements.

Signs that may indicate dietary deficiency and where additional PABA in a B complex may be desirable are: 

  • premature greying of the hair
  • recurring skin problems such as eczema.

There are no official recommendations for PABA. People wishing to take a supplement containing the nutrient are advised to do so in the form of a general B complex tablet.

Like most other members of the B Complex PABA likes to be with its relatives and is best taken as part of a multi-vitamin preparation.

A combination of vitamins B5 (pantothenic acid) and B6 (pyridoxine) and the minerals zinc and manganese has been used successfully to treat vitiligo and other skin problems associated with pigmentation.

The link between folic acid and PABA relates to the chemical shape of the nutrients and the fact that para-aminobenzoic acid forms part of the folic acid molecule.

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