The Ultimate Guide to Health Benefits of Vitamin B2: One of the best nutrients to boost your energy levels and more!
You might not have heard much about vitamin B2 or riboflavin before but it’s a vital part of your diet. You’ll be surprised to know that though it usually gets the least amount of attention in the B-group of vitamins, there are a myriad of health benefits of vitamin B2.
Let’s look at what riboflavin has to offer when it puts on its underdog cape!
What is Vitamin B2 and what does it do?
Vitamin B2 also known as Riboflavin is a member of the B complex family of water-soluble vitamins and is essential for maintaining the body’s energy supply. It is naturally present in foods and added to some as a dietary supplement. Riboflavin was the second vitamin to be isolated and the name comes from its yellow color as flavin means yellow in Latin.
Riboflavin is a component of two coenzymes- Flavin mononucleotide (FMN) and Flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD). These coenzyme forms are present in many foods and the free vitamin is found in milk and eggs. Both of them are involved with the breakdown of fats, steroids, and medications, energy production, and growth of cells
The body absorbs little riboflavin only, small amounts of riboflavin is stored in the liver, heart, and kidneys. When excess amounts are consumed, they are not absorbed and are excreted in the urine.
The human body produces ATP (adenosine triphosphate) from food, and ATP produces energy. Riboflavin helps in this by converting carbohydrates into adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Now lets see some of the benefits of Vitamin B2, its dietary sources, deficiency & toxicity and what are the different forms available and its possible drug interaction.
Benefits of Vitamin B2
Migraine is a pulsating headache in one area associated with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. Low vitamin B2 can lead to mitochondrial dysfunction which is thought to play a role in some types of migraines.
Studies have found evidence of a beneficial effect of riboflavin supplements on migraine headaches in adults and children. Randomized trial of 55 adults with migraine, with 400 mg/day riboflavin reduced the frequency of migraine attacks by two per month compared to placebo .
Along with other nutrients, Vitamin B2 is also important for normal vision.
Riboflavin might help prevent cataracts and damage to the lens of the eye. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people who took a niacin and riboflavin supplement had fewer cataracts than people who took other vitamins and nutrients.
Riboflavin works as an antioxidant and fights particles in the body known as free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells and DNA and may contribute to the development of a number of health conditions, such as heart disease and cancer. Studies also indicate that this vitamin can protect the body against oxidative stress, [2, 4].
A study on 64 children suffering from malarial infection found that malaria can cause riboflavin deficiency .
Vitamin B2 like other B vitamins is in charge of, making new red blood cells, keeping the immune system strong, and transporting oxygen throughout the body.
A high intake of two B vitamins from foods – thiamine (B1) and riboflavin (B2) – was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing PMS. women in the highest quintile of riboflavin intake had a 35% lower risk of developing PMS than did those in the lowest quintile .
Free radicals present in our body aids in the development of a number of health conditions, such as heart disease and cancer. Riboflavin is an antioxidant that fights free radicals and may reduce or help prevent some of the damage they cause. .
In an intervention trial, it has been shown that riboflavin supplements significantly lower blood pressure .
Dietary sources of Riboflavin
Milk and milk products like curd, cottage cheese, cheese, etc. are among the best riboflavin rich foods.
Other good sources of Vitamin B2 are:
- Spinach and other green leafy vegetables
- Grains such as wheat
How much Riboflavin do we need?
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Riboflavin is:
|Infants||6 months to 1 year||0.3 mg|
|Children||1 to 3 years||0.5 mg|
|Children||4 to 8 years||0.6 mg|
|Men||14 to 18 years||1.3 mg|
|Women||14 to 18 years||1 mg|
|Men||19 years and older||1.3 mg|
|Women||19 years and older||1.1 mg|
|Pregnant women||1.4 mg|
|Lactating women||1.6 mg|
Riboflavin deficiency (Ariboflavinosis) is common in people with poor diet. A person who has a B2 deficiency normally has other nutrient deficiencies too. Disorders of the thyroid and respiratory infection increase the risk of a deficiency.
It’s especially important to get enough riboflavin when you are pregnant as riboflavin deficiency could increase your chances of preeclampsia which involves dangerously high blood pressure and endanger your baby’s growth. This is a serious condition that can be life-threatening.
There are two types of riboflavin deficiency:
- Primary riboflavin deficiency– which happens when the diet is poor in vitamin B2.
- Secondary riboflavin deficiency– happens when the intestine is not able to absorb the vitamin properly, or the body cannot use it, or because it is being excreted too rapidly.
Symptoms of deficiency include:
- Glossitis- inflammation of the tongue
- Cheilosis- scaling and fissures (cracks) at the end of the mouth
- Sore and inflamed mouth
- Sore throat
- Various eye and nervous system disorders
- Hair loss
- Skin rash
- Itchy red eyes
- Cataracts in severe cases
- Alcoholics are at greater risk of vitamin B deficiency.
Groups at higher risk of deficiency:
- Vegans/vegetarians -due to exclusion or lower intake of dairy and meat products.
- Pregnant women– especially those who are lactose intolerant, due to increased nutrient needs with a growing foetus.
Though there are numerous benefits of Vitamin B2, it is recommended that you don’t consume it in excess.
A toxic level of riboflavin has not been observed from food sources and supplements because of limited intestinal absorption. The excess is quickly excreted in the urine. Therefore, there is no Tolerable Upper Intake Level for riboflavin .
You can get all the riboflavin benefits by consuming a proper diet, especially one rich in milk and milk products.
However, if you are deficient or have another condition, your doctor or nutritionist may recommend a supplement. Diagnosis of riboflavin deficiency can be confirmed by a therapeutic trial or laboratory testing, usually by measuring urinary excretion of riboflavin. Children aged 12 years or older and most adults can take vitamin B2.
Riboflavin is best absorbed when taken between meals. As a supplement, it is usually included in multivitamins and B-complex vitamins. It also comes separately in 25 mg, 50 mg, and 100 mg tablets.
The most common forms of riboflavin supplements are Riboflavin and Riboflavin 5′-Monophosphate.
Relatively non-toxic, riboflavin is considered safe at high doses however Some people may notice their urine turning yellow-orange in color or diarrhoea when taken in higher doses.
You can buy Vitamin B2 supplements from any local pharmacy, supermarkets, or online websites and take them with or without food or as advised by your doctor.
What to look for in a supplement?
- Look out for artificial colouring and dyes.
- Make sure it contains the active form of vitamins
- Look at the dosage as prescribed by your doctor
- Look for labels like gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan based on your preferences
Vitamin B2 Drug Interaction
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should talk to your health care provider before starting any supplement.
Anticholinergic medications: Doctors use this drug to treat a variety of conditions, including asthma, depression, motion sickness, and gastrointestinal spasms. These drugs may make it hard for the body to absorb riboflavin.
Tetracycline: Vitamin B-complex supplements particularly Riboflavin interferes with the effectiveness and absorption of tetracycline. You should take riboflavin at a different time during the day than when you take tetracycline.
Tricyclic antidepressants: These drugs may reduce levels of riboflavin in the body.
- Imipramine (Tofranil)
- Desimpramine (Norpramin)
- Amitriptyline (Elavil)
- Nortriptyline (Pamelor)
Doxorubicin: Doxorubicin, a medication used for the treatment of certain cancers may reduce the absorption of Riboflavin. Also, doxorubicin may deplete levels of riboflavin in the body.
Antipsychotic medications: Antipsychotic medications called phenothiazines (such as chlorpromazine, or Thorazine) may lower riboflavin levels.
Methotrexate: This medication used to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, may interfere with how the body uses riboflavin.
Phenytoin (Dilantin): This medication, used to control seizures, may affect riboflavin levels in the body.
Probenecid: This medication used for gout may decrease the absorption of riboflavin from the digestive tract and increase how much is lost in the urine.
Thiazide diuretics (water pills): Diuretics that belong to a class known as thiazides, such as hydrochlorothiazide, may cause you to lose more riboflavin in your urine.
Most people get enough riboflavin from food to prevent any deficiency. It is an essential nutrient involved in the production of energy and the breakdown of fats and steroids.
Though the deficiency is rare, poor dietary practices can lead to a number of diseases.
Supplements should only be taken in case of deficiency or if advised by a doctor.
Q: Is too much vitamin B2 bad for you?
A: The primary risk of excess vitamin B2 is liver damage. However, riboflavin toxicity is rare as our body excretes any excess amount in urine.
Q: Does Vitamin B2 help you lose weight?
A: Losing weight requires a number of lifestyle interventions, popping a pile alone can’t help. Vitamin B2 helps your body’s metabolism which helps burn fat faster.
Q: Why does vitamin B2 turn urine yellow?
A: One side effect of excess B-complex supplements is that they can turn urine bright yellow. Yellow urine simply means your body is getting rid of excess vitamins that it can’t use.
Q: What does vitamin B2 do for your skin?
A: B2 can help balance natural oils, improve skin tone and make skin more radiant making it great vitamins for dry skin or acne.
Q: How does B2 help with migraines?
A: Riboflavin plays a key role in cellular energy production in the body. Its role in mitochondrial energy metabolism relieves symptoms of migraine.
- National Institute of Health, Riboflavin- Factsheet for health professionals, March 2021
- Mount Sinai, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), 2021
- Marziyeh Ashoori, Ahmad Saedisomeolia
- Riboflavin (vitamin B₂) and oxidative stress: a review, National library of health,2014
- BS Das, D B Das, R N Satpathy, J K Patnaik, T K Bose, Riboflavin deficiency and severity of malaria, National library of health, April 1988
- Patricia O Chocano-Bedoya JoAnn E Manson, Susan E Hankinson, Walter C Willett, Susan R Johnson, Lisa Chasan-Taber, Alayne G Ronnenberg, Carol Bigelow, Elizabeth R Bertone-Johnson,
- Dietary B vitamin intake and incident premenstrual syndrome, National library of health, May 2011
- Geraldine Horigan 1, Helene McNulty, Mary Ward, J J Strain, John Purvis, John M Scott, Riboflavin lowers blood pressure in cardiovascular disease patients homozygous for the 677C–>T polymorphism in MTHFR, National library of medicine, March 2010