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Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

What is Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)?

Vitamin B2, more commonly known as riboflavin, is a water-soluble vitamin present in a majority of animal and plant tissues. The word “flavin” is derived from the Latin word “flavus” which means yellow. Therefore, vitamin B2 actually gets its name from its color. Riboflavin is one of the essential B vitamins ours bodies need to help support adrenal function, calm and maintain a healthy nervous system, and assist in key metabolic processes.

Benefits of Riboflavin

There are several benefits of vitamin B2 that are essential to maintaining a healthy and happy body. These nutritional benefits include the following:

  • Promotes Energy Production: Similar to all B vitamins, riboflavin plays a critical role in the production of energy. It is important both for the energy-producing electron transport chain as well as the metabolism of fat molecules into useful energy. Moreover, vitamin B2 plays a role in helping the body change other energy related nutrients, such as folate and vitamin B6, into usable forms.
  • Antioxidant Protection: Riboflavin is one of many nutrients that are required to recycle an antioxidant called glutathione, which is one of the most valuable antioxidants in the human body. It helps prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals, peroxides and heavy metals.
  • Promotes Metabolism of Iron: Scientists have found that marginal vitamin B2 status impairs the ability to make red blood cells which leads to anemia. Although there is debate about how this actually occurs, many scientists believe that vitamin B2 is required to mobilize iron from storage to incorporate into cells while a vitamin B2 deficiency would impair iron absorption.

Dietary Sources of Vitamin B2

People who maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet typically get enough riboflavin. The best sources of vitamin B2 come from almonds, whole grains, organic meat, wild rice, dairy products like milk and yogurt, and green vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and spinach. It should be noted that riboflavin is actually destroyed by light, so food should be stored away from light to protect it. Also, vitamin B2 can be lost in water when foods are boiled or soaked, so be mindful when cooking foods that are high in riboflavin.

Recommended Daily Intake

The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has established a set of Recommended Dietary Intakes (RDAs) for vitamin B2. Remember that everyone has different nutritional needs, so please consult a doctor to find out what your specific vitamin needs are. Below are the standard daily recommendations:

  • Infants:
    • 0-6 months: 0.3 mg
    • 6-12 months: 0.4 mg
    • 1-3 years: 0.5 mg
  • Children:
    • 4-8 years: 0.6 mg
    • 9-13 years: 0.9 mg
  • Teenagers:
    • 14-18 years, female: 1.0 mg
    • 14-18 years, male: 1.3 mg
  • Adults:
    • 19+ years, female: 1.1 mg
    • 19+ years, male: 1.3 mg
  • Pregnant/Nursing:
    • Pregnant women: 1.4 mg
    • Lactating women: 1.6 mg

Riboflavin Deficiencies and Toxicity

While riboflavin deficiencies are not common (roughly 2% of American adults do not meet the dietary reference intake (DRI) for vitamin B2), it is possible to incur a deficiency. Signs and symptoms of riboflavin deficiency include cracked lips, dry skin, mouth ulcers, red lips, sore throat, and anaemia (iron deficiency). There are two types of riboflavin deficiencies:

  • Primary riboflavin deficiency: This deficiency simply results from eating a poor diet that is lacking in vitamin B2.
  • Secondary riboflavin deficiency: Occurs when there is another reason for the deficiency. Some possible reasons include conditions that affect riboflavin absorption into the intestines, the body being unable to utilize the vitamin, or an extreme increase in the excretion of the vitamin.

As of now, there is no known toxicity to riboflavin. Since it’s water-soluble, the vitamin is easily excreted from the body. There is a possibility of reactions to extremely high doses which may include itching, numbness, burning sensation, or sensitivity to light.

*This page is for informational purposes only and shouldn't replace medical advice.

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