Healthy Living

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Nutrition, Source and Health Benefits

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Nutrition, Source and Health Benefits

Key Takeaways

  • Vitamin B also known as riboflavin is an essential vitamin known to boosts energy levels, aid in digestion and also provide healthy skin and hair.
  • Riboflavin is found in food products such as eggs, meat and green leafy vegetables.
  • People taking depression medications such as tricyclic antidepressants, drying medications such as anticholinergic medications and probenecid such as benemid, should talk to the doctor before taking riboflavin as it could have minor interactions with other drugs.

Vitamin B2 is also called as Riboflavin. This is one of the important vitamins which is known to act as an antioxidant within the body, boost the energy levels in the body, maintain healthy blood cells for smooth functioning of the body, prevent damage of free radicals, protect and promote healthy skin and eyes, contribute to the development of body growth, promote healthy metabolism and many more.

Like all B vitamins, the vitamin B2 is a water-soluble vitamin due to which this vitamin needs to be obtained from a healthy daily diet and then needs to be restocked often so that one should not suffer from riboflavin deficiency.

All B vitamins mainly help in digestion and obtaining energy from the foods which we consume by converting the nutrients from different food types like carbohydrates, fats and proteins into functional performing energy. Riboflavin or Vitamin B2 is also required for smooth functioning of every single cell present in the body, hence a deficiency of riboflavin or any B vitamins can lead to innumerable side effects.

Vitamin B2 teams up with other B vitamins to become “B Vitamin Complex”. Hence, the amount of B2 vitamins in the body needs to be higher to help the other B vitamins such as folic acid or B6 to perform their job properly.

The main function of vitamin B in the body is to contribute towards better health of the nervous system, health of the heart and blood, reduce inflammation in the body, balance the hormonal function, promote good health of the skin and eyes, maintain a healthy metabolism and improve the digestive function.

Deficiency of vitamin B2

In the developed nations, there are rare cases of deficiency of vitamin B2 since most of the food products with refined carbohydrates contain a good amount of riboflavin. Also, eggs and meat which are also commonly consumed are a good source of vitamin B2. The required dosage for male adults is 1.3 mg per day, whereas for women it is 1.1 mg per day. 

Those people who suffer from deficiency of riboflavin such as anaemia, thyroid dysfunction, eyesight issues, migraines, severe headaches and any other condition should increase the intake of riboflavin to the necessary limit so as to correct the underlying medical problem and avoid it from worsening.

Symptoms pertaining to the deficiency of riboflavin are:

  • Sore throat
  • Nerve damage
  • Anaemia
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Swelling of mucus membrane 
  • Sores or cracks appearing on the lips or mouth
  • Decreasing level of energy or sluggish metabolism
  • Mood changes resulting in increased anxiety, stress and signs of depression
  • Mouth and tongue inflammation
  • Skin issues such as skin inflammation or disorders mostly around the nose and face

Sources of vitamin B2

Food is the best source of riboflavin vitamin.  The foods listed below are rich sources of riboflavin:

  • Eggs
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Meat
  • Certain nuts
  • Beans and legumes
  • Dairy products, including cheese

Out of the above food groups, below are few specific food products which are best sources of riboflavin:

  • 1 Egg contains 0.26 mg
  • 1 cup almond would contain 1.0 mg
  • Liver of lamb, chicken or turkey contains 3.9 mg
  • Organ meat which includes beef or lamb kidneys contain 2.5 mg
  • 1 cup organic feta cheese contains 1.3 mg
  • 2 tbsp sesame seed paste contains 2 mg
  • Mackerel fish contains 0.49 mg

Riboflavin and other B vitamins are usually found in whole grains and products enriched with carbohydrates such as cereals, breads, pastas and granola bars. These are the foods which are enriched with various vitamins and minerals including riboflavin once these foods are processed and the naturally occurring nutrients are destroyed or removed during the processing stage.

The main reason for people not having deficiency of riboflavin is because people mostly consume processed and packaged products, which contain refined carbohydrates. Thus, the daily need of riboflavin is being met in most of the situations. However, one should note that by consuming these packaged foods, one is consuming the synthetic version of riboflavin or other vitamins which has been purposefully added to the food rather than it being naturally available.

Those food products with synthetically added vitamins will add the words “enriched” or “fortified” on the packaging label. This is very different than the unprocessed foods wherein these vitamins are naturally available such as eggs, meat and few vegetables.

Health Benefits of Vitamin B2

Below are the details and the proven benefits of vitamin B2 or riboflavin:

  • Supports healthy eyesight: Various studies have shown that deficiency in vitamin B2 is linked to increased risk of certain eye-related problems. By maintaining the correct dosage of vitamin B2, it would prevent certain eye-related disorders such as keratoconus, cataract and glaucoma.An elderly person with good intake of riboflavin through various foods would have healthy eyesight and less eye-related problems compared to a young person with riboflavin deficiency. If someone has riboflavin deficiency which then shows up in the form of eye problems, the doctor would suggest eye drops containing riboflavin to  be used on the patient’s corneal surface, specially for those suffering from glaucoma. This eye drop is allowed to penetrate through the cornea so that the strength of the cornea is increased when light therapy is used.
  • Promotes healthy skin and hair: Riboflavin or vitamin B2 has a major role in maintaining the collagen levels which promotes healthy hair and skin. To maintain the youthful structure of the skin and prevent the development of fine lines and wrinkles as one ages, collagen is very important.  Deficiency of riboflavin can also lead to one looking old, rather quickly. Also, riboflavin is shown to help wounds heal faster, reduce skin inflammation and heal cracked lips and mouth as well. Riboflavin is also known to slow signs of aging.
  • Ensuring and maintaining proper energy levels: Riboflavin is required by the body so that the food gets metabolized into energy. Apart from metabolization, it maintains proper brain functioning, nerve health, balances hormone function and aids in digestion.If the level of riboflavin is not high, then it can lead to riboflavin deficiency. In such cases, the molecules found in fat, protein and carbohydrate foods do not get digested properly resulting in low levels of energy for the body. Hence, the required fuel to keep the body running does not get generated. Thus, Vitamin B2 is important for repairing, maintaining and growth of the body.If sufficient amount of riboflavin is present in the body, then it helps to break down the protein into amino acids, carbohydrates and fats which then form glucose. This is also called as converting the essential nutrients into energy which is used by the body for maintaining a healthy metabolism.
  • Prevents headaches and migraines: Deficiency of riboflavin can also lead to severe headaches or migraines. In such cases, high doses of riboflavin are suggested such as 400 mg to avoid such painful headaches and get them cured. Such high doses are recommended for people who experience regular bouts of serious migraine attacks.Supplementing with riboflavin is known to be a natural remedy for headaches, thus also reducing the frequency of migraines. It also shortens the duration of migraine attacks along with reducing the symptoms.
  • Prevention and Treatment of Anaemia: There are several factors which contribute to anaemia, such as low level of red cell production, which leads to lesser oxygen being supplied to the body and blood loss. Riboflavin is very important for these functions, thus it is helpful in preventing and treating anaemia.
  • Acts as a defensive mechanism against cancer and as an antioxidant: Antioxidants control the presence of those cells which damage the free radicals within the body. Riboflavin is also required to produce an antioxidant called as glutathione. This antioxidant detoxifies the liver and acts as a free radical-killer.Free radicals are those that age the body. If these free radicals are out of control, then it can result in emergence of various diseases. Vitamin B2 plays an important part in defending the body against the disease by providing a healthy lining within the digestive tract. If a person’s digestive tract stays healthy, more nutrients can be absorbed by the body from the food that we eat and then used for energy or as fuel. Thus, deficiency in riboflavin can lead to less nutrients being absorbed in the body leading to less energy.There have been preliminary studies which show the correlation of riboflavin in helping to prevent certain types of cancer which would include cervical cancer, prostate cancer, esophageal cancer and colorectal cancer. However, the studies have not fully confirmed the same. More research is needed to draw out the exact role of riboflavin in prevention or treatment of cancer. However, it is said to minimize the effects of cancer producing carcinogens and the stress which is caused by free radicals.

Supplements or Dosage required by the body

Below is the daily recommended dosage of riboflavin based on age:

Infants

  • 0 to 6 months would need 0.3 mg per day
  • 7 months to 1 year would need 0.4 mg per day

Children

  • 1 to 3 years would need 0.5 mg per day
  • 4 to 8 years would need 0.6 mg per day
  • 9 to 13 years would need 0.9 mg per day

Adults

  • Males aged 14 years and above would need 1.3 mg per day
  • Females aged 14 to 18 years would need 1.0 mg per day
  • Females aged 19 years and above would need 1.1 mg per day

Taking supplements won’t harm the body, but it is best to consume wholesome foods which are natural sources of vitamin B2 and other essential nutrients. With the intake of a balanced diet containing a variety of non-processed foods which are rich in various nutrients, most people would acquire vitamin B2 and also avoid the deficiency.

If you are taking riboflavin supplements, then it is best to get such products from a good reputed health store and also ensure the quality of the product. It should be made from real food sources. Vitamin B2 is also required to activate folic acid and vitamin B6.

There is yet no known risk being claimed to prove that overconsumption of vitamin B2 could be dangerous for the body. Since it is a water soluble vitamin, excess vitamin which is not needed by the body is excreted within a few hours. Hence, it does not pose a threat.

Those who frequently consume supplements or multivitamins may come across slight change in colour of the urine, it turns out to be bright yellow colour. This is nothing to be scared of, as this is due to the riboflavin which we have ingested directly. This yellow colour urine is a sign that the body is absorbing the vitamin properly and there is no riboflavin deficiency and any extra riboflavin is being excreted by the body.

Drug Interactions of Riboflavin

Those people who take medications which have an effect on the absorption rate of vitamin B2 should be more careful before consuming any supplements. These interactions are minor, but you should have a word with the doctor if one is taking any of the below medicines:

  • Depression medications such as tricyclic antidepressants that can possibly decrease the amount of riboflavin in the body.
  • Drying medications such as anticholinergic medications that can have an effect on the stomach and intestine, thus increasing the amount of riboflavin being absorbed in the body.
  • Probenecid such as benemid, which is known to increase how much riboflavin one can consume and its absorption by the body. This can possibly cause too much riboflavin to linger around, which can be problematic though nothing major.