What is VITAMIN B2 (RIBOFLAVIN)?
Vitamin B2, also called riboflavin, is one of 8 B vitamins. All B vitamins help the body to convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which is used to produce energy. These B vitamins, often referred to as B-complex vitamins, also help the body metabolize fats and protein. B complex vitamins are necessary for a healthy liver, skin, hair, and eyes. They also help the nervous system function properly.
All B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning the body does not store them.
In addition to producing energy for the body, riboflavin works as an antioxidant, fighting damaging particles in the body known as free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells and DNA and may contribute to the aging process, as well as the development of a number of health conditions, such as heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants, such as riboflavin, can fight free radicals and may reduce or help prevent some of the damage they cause.
Riboflavin is also needed to help the body change vitamin B6 and folate into forms it can use. It is also important for growth and red blood cell production.
Most healthy people who eat a well-balanced diet get enough riboflavin. However, elderly people and alcoholics may be at risk for riboflavin deficiency because of a poor diet. Symptoms of riboflavin deficiency include:
- Slowed growth
- Digestive problems
- Cracks and sores around the corners of the mouth
- Swollen magenta-colored tongue
- Eye fatigue
- Swelling and soreness of the throat
- Sensitivity to light
Vitamin B2, along with other nutrients, is important for normal vision. Early studies suggest that riboflavin might help prevent cataracts, damage to the lens of the eye, which can lead to cloudy vision. In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people who took a niacin and riboflavin supplement had fewer cataracts than people who took other vitamins and nutrients. However, researchers do not know whether that was due to riboflavin, niacin, or the combination of the two. More research is needed to see if riboflavin can really help prevent cataracts.
Several studies suggest that people who get migraines may reduce how often they get migraines and how long the migraines last by taking riboflavin. One double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that taking 400 mg of riboflavin a day cut the number of migraine attacks in half. However, the study did not compare riboflavin to conventional medications used to prevent migraines. More research is needed.
Preliminary research suggests that supplementation with vitamin B2, along with vitamin B6, and magnesium reduces the level of dicarboxylic acids (abnormal organic acids) in the urine of autistic children.
The best sources of riboflavin include:
- Brewer's yeast
- Organ meats
- Whole grains
- Wheat germ
- Wild rice
- Brussels sprouts
Flours and cereals are often fortified with riboflavin.
Riboflavin is destroyed by light. So food should be stored away from light to protect its riboflavin content. While riboflavin is not destroyed by heat, it can be lost in water when foods are boiled or soaked. Roasting and steaming foods preserves more riboflavin than frying or scalding your foods.