Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is part of the vitamin B group. It is the central component of the cofactors FAD and FMN and as such required for a variety of flavoprotein enzyme reactions including activation of other vitamins. It was formerly known as vitamin G.
As a chemical compound, riboflavin is a yellow-orange solid substance with poor solubility in water compared to other B vitamins. Visually, it imparts color to vitamin supplements (and bright yellow color to the urine of persons taking a lot of it).
The name “riboflavin” comes from “ribose” (the sugar whose reduced form, ribitol, forms part of its structure) and “flavin”, the ring-moiety which imparts the yellow color to the oxidized molecule (from Latin flavus, “yellow”). The reduced form, which occurs in metabolism along with the oxidized form, is colorless.
It can be found in certain foods such as milk, meat, eggs, nuts, enriched flour, and green vegetables. Riboflavin is frequently used in combination with other B vitamins in vitamin B complex products.
Riboflavin is used for preventing low levels of riboflavin (riboflavin deficiency), cervical cancer, and migraine headaches. It is also used for treating riboflavin deficiency, acne, muscle cramps, burning feet syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, and blood disorders such as congenital methemoglobinemia and red blood cell aplasia.
Vitamin B2, is an important vitamin that also 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, protecting skin and eye health, and even more.
Because it’s a water soluble vitamin like all B vitamins, 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.
Offers Antioxidant Protection
Vitamin B2 is one of many nutrients required to recycle glutathione, which is one of the most important antioxidants in the human body. (From a chemical standpoint, what B2 does is facilitate the conversion of oxidized glutathione into reduced glutathione.)
We believe that the best protection against free radicals comes from foods that are rich in many different antioxidants. Examples of good vitamin B2 sources that would fit this description include spinach, beet greens, and broccoli, among others.
Anemia – Iron Metabolism
Marginal vitamin B2 status has been found to impair the ability to make red blood cells, leading to a condition called anemia. There is some debate about how this occurs, with some scientists believing that vitamin B2 is necessary to mobilize iron from storage to incorporate into cells, and others believing that vitamin B2 deficiency impairs iron absorption.
Vitamin B2 is required for the synthesis of red blood cells (RBCs) that carry oxygen throughout the body. It also plays a role in absorption of iron, a mineral responsible for binding oxygen. Therefore, low levels of B2 can also lower the levels of iron in the body, causing fatigue and tiredness due to development of anemia.
The role of vitamin B2 in maintaining skin health is clearly seen in the disease pellagra, a condition caused by an acute deficiency of this B complex vitamin that leads to ulceration of the cutaneous layer of the skin. In fact, vitamin B2 is also called the anti-pellagra vitamin because of its powerful antioxidant ability. Riboflavin is involved in secretion of mucus that keeps the skin moistened. Therefore, it prevents conditions like eczema and dermatitis.
Like other B vitamins, vitamin B2 also plays a role in protecting the nervous system. It is suggested to treat as well as prevent several nervous system disorders including anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and even epileptic seizures. It is thought that riboflavin, when used along with vitamin B6, is effective for treating the painful symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
It helps in the absorption of minerals such as iron, folic acid and other Vitamins such as B1, B3 and B6. Helps Repair Tissues: Riboflavin plays an important role in the repair of tissues, the healing of wounds and other injuries that can take a long time to fully recover.
Deficiency and dosage
Deficiency of riboflavin is rare in developed countries because it is a vitamin found in many common foods. Some people are more prone to deficiency than others. This is more common in people on extreme diets who are underweight or those with digestive problems such as celiac disease. Teens, alcoholics and the elderly are also more susceptible to vitamin B2 deficiency because of poor diet.
Deficiency can cause anemia, sore throat, mouth or lip sores, inflammation of the skin and swelling of soft tissue in the mouth. These symptoms can show up after just a few days of deficiency.
The normal recommended daily allowance (RDA) of riboflavin is dependent on age, gender and reproductive status. “RDA is 1.3 milligrams daily for men and 1.1 mg for women. A higher dose of 3 mg per day can help to prevent cataracts. Higher doses up to 400 mg can be used to treat migraine headaches,” said Arthur. A cup of chopped kale has 0.1 mg, while a hard-boiled egg has 0.3 mg and a glass of whole milk has 0.4 mg, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One cup of whole almonds has 1.4 mg of riboflavin, or 85 percent of the RDA.
As a supplement, riboflavin is usually included in multivitamins and B-complex vitamins. It also is available separately in doses of 25 mg, 50 mg and 100 mg. Relatively nontoxic, riboflavin is considered safe at high doses because excess is disposed of through the urinary tract.