PABA: More Than a Sunscreen

Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) is a nutrient that is considered to be a member of the B-complex family,
although it has been argued that it is not a true vitamin.

PABA gained recognition as a sunscreen ingredient for its ability to block UV rays; however, it plays other roles in the human body, including that of an antioxidant.

Below, we’ll dive into some of the lesser-known benefits of this interesting nutrient. Ready?

PABA Protects Against Toxins

The book Life Extension: A Practical, Scientific Approach, by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, brought to light some significant facts concerning PABA, including its function as a membrane stabilizer.

"PABA helps protect red blood cells from bursting (lysing) and lysosomal membranes from breaking and releasing lysosomal (tissue dissolving) enzymes which can damage tissues," they write.

"In experiments with rats, PABA provided substantial protection against ozone toxicity," Pearson and Shaw note. "Therefore, for people living in smoggy areas, PABA is a protective dietary addition”.1

PABA May be Good for Your Memory

PABA, in addition to other functions, acts as an inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.2

Higher levels of acetylcholine benefit memory and learning, which may benefit those suffering from a loss of cognition. Brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s are characterized by low levels of acetylcholine3.

PABA Improves Peyronie's Disease

A compound containing PABA known as potassium para-aminobenzoate has been used to treat Peyronie's disease, which is a painful curvature of the penis caused by the growth of fibrous plaques.

A study showed improvement among 44% of patients experiencing discomfort. Decreased plaque size and improved angulation were seen in more than half of those included in the study.4

PABA Reverses Gray Hair

Animal studies indicate PABA could help reverse gray hair in humans. Although early published research documented a number of case histories showing benefits, it is now evident that PABA helps a small fraction of people repigment their hair.5

How to Get More PABA

PABA is found in meat, grains, brewer's yeast, molasses and mushrooms, and is added to most B complex supplements. An average dose is 100 milligrams (mg), yet 1,000 mg has been taken daily by many people without a problem.

Like all B complex vitamins, PABA is best taken in divided doses. Because PABA can interfere with the effectiveness of sulfa drugs it is best to avoid it while taking these medications.


  1. Pearson, Durk; Shaw, Sandy. Life Extension: A Practical, Scientific Approach. New York: Warner Books, 1982. 
  2. Eur J Med Chem. 2005 Jul;40(7):732-5. 
  3. Neurosignals. 2005;14(1-2):6-22. 
  4. Tech Urol. 1997 Fall;3(3):135-9. 
  5. J Invest Dermatol. 1950 Dec;15(6):399-401.



Bob McBob said...

PABA is also a competitive inhibitor of the CoQ10 biosynthetic pathway enzyme, CoQ2. PABA treatment resulted in a 54% decrease decrease in neuronal CoQ10 status. Reduction of neuronal CoQ10 status was accompanied by a progressive decrease in mitochondrial respiratory chain enzyme activities, with a 67.5% decrease in cellular ATP production at 46% residual CoQ10. Mitochondrial oxidative stress increased four-fold at 77% and 46% residual CoQ10. As a result, PABA also increases superoxide. See PMIDs: 22767283 and 16873928

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