Vitamin B2, also called Riboflavin, is an important vitamin that acts as an antioxidant within the body. Vitamin B2 is responsible for maintaining healthy blood cells, helping to boost energy levels, facilitating in a healthy metabolism, preventing free radical damage, contributing to growth, and even more. Vitamin B2 must be obtained through a healthy diet and replenished often, ideally every day, in order to avoid a riboflavin deficiency. All B vitamins are used to help digest and extract energy from the foods you eat; they do this by converting nutrients from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into useable energy in the form of “ATP”. For this reason, Vitamin B2 is needed for the functioning of every single cell within your body, and a riboflavin deficiency or lack of B vitamins in your diet can create a number of serious side effects.
Vitamin B2 is used in combination with other B vitamins, which make up the “B Vitamin Complex”. In fact B2 must be present in high enough amounts in the body to allow other B vitamins including B6 and folic acid to properly do their jobs. All B vitamins are responsible for important functions including contributing to nerve health, heart and blood health, skin and eye health, reducing inflammation, hormonal function, and are used to maintain a healthy metabolism and digestive system.
Why is vitamin B2 important?
Vitamin B2 plays a vital role in maintaining the body's energy supply. Riboflavin helps convert carbohydrates into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The human body produces ATP from food, and ATP produces energy as the body requires it. The compound ATP is vital for storing energy in muscles. Along with vitamin A, vitamin B is essential for:
- Maintaining the mucous membranes in the digestive system
- Maintaining a healthy liver
- Converting tryptophan into niacin, an amino acid
- Keeping the eyes, nerves, muscles and skin healthy
Signs of a Vitamin B2 deficiency can include:
- Nerve damage
- A sluggish metabolism
- Mouth or lip sores or cracks
- Sore throat
Sources of vitamin B2
Vitamin B2 comes from food.
Sources of B2 include:
- Fish, meat, and poultry, such as turkey, chicken, beef, kidneys, and liver
- Dairy products
Safety concerns and risks
Normally, vitamin B2 is considered safe. An overdose is unlikely, as the body can absorb up to around 27 milligrams of riboflavin, and it expels any additional amounts in the urine. However, it is important to talk to a physician before taking any supplements, especially as these can interfere with other medications.
Drugs that may interfere with riboflavin levels in the body include:
- Tricyclic antidepressants, such as imipramine, or Tofranil
- Some antipsychotic drugs, such as chlorpromazine, or Thorazine
- Methotrexate, used for cancer and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Phenytoin, or Dilantin, used to control seizures
- Thiazide diuretics, or water pills
While supplementing with B vitamins can be helpful, keep in mind that it’s always best to still aim to consume plenty of whole foods that naturally contain Vitamin B2 and other essential nutrients. By eating a balanced diet that contains a variety of unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods, most people seem to acquire enough Vitamin B2 and to avoid a riboflavin deficiency. If you are going to be taking a supplement that contains riboflavin, be sure to purchase a high-quality product that is made from real food sources.