Vitamin B2: How to Prevent a Riboflavin Deficiency

Takeaway: Vitamin B2 takes plays an enormous role in our body’s overall condition. Although there’s still a lot to research to be done about the many functions of riboflavin, it is an undeniable fact that it is an irreplaceable element that our body requires. That being said, nourishing ourselves with the right amount of nutrients is critical to maintaining good health.

Our body requires a multitude of vitamins and minerals, each of them having a vital role to play in supporting the body’s everyday functions. One of the most common types of vitamin supplements in drugstore shelves is vitamin B-complex tablets. Although these tablets contain all eight B-complex vitamins, we often hear people supplementing themselves with just one type.

One of the most common vitamin B-complex types people supplement themselves with is vitamin B2. What is it and what does it do to the body? Read on to find out more about this essential nutrient.

What Is Vitamin B2?

Vitamin B2, otherwise known as riboflavin, is one of the eight B-complex vitamins that our body requires to maintain proper health. It is also one of the B-complex vitamins that help break down fat and protein into glucose. The processed glucose then acts as fuel for our cells to produce energy making riboflavin an essential nutrient that helps us perform everyday tasks.

It is also important to note that riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K, our bodies cannot store riboflavin in fatty tissues. Water-soluble vitamins like riboflavin come from plant and animal food as well as supplements. That said, our diet and eating habits play a crucial role in obtaining the right amount of vitamin B2.

Milk and yogurt are the best sources of vitamin B2, as well as eggs, quinoa, and animal proteins like beef liver and lamb. But today, many people take riboflavin in pill or tablet form, especially those who have dietary restrictions that limit their food choices.

Excellent sources of vitamin B2

What Does Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Do?

Like all other vitamins and minerals, riboflavin is an essential nutrient that helps in facilitating important body functions. Although predominantly known as an energy producing nutrient, vitamin B2 still has a lot more uses to offer. From the appearance of our skin to the maintenance of our digestive tract, riboflavin takes part in keeping our bodies in good shape.

The most obvious indicators of riboflavin at work can be seen in the condition of our skin and hair. Healthy skin and strong, thick hair are often associated with someone who has healthy levels of vitamin B2. Collagen, a protein that is responsible for the healthy appearance of our hair, skin, and nails, is also managed by vitamin B2.

On a larger scale, vitamin B2 riboflavin works towards the proper development of our blood cells, brain functions, and the lining of our digestive tract. It has a long list of functions, but perhaps one of its most notable uses is in improving cardiovascular health. Vitamin B2 is required in the synthesis of new red blood cells and in regulating homocysteine levels in the blood. With said function, riboflavin lowers risk of cardiovascular disease by preventing plaque buildup in the arterial walls.

Riboflavin Deficiency

The normal dosage of riboflavin varies, and it is dependent on a person’s age and sex. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for an adult male is 1.3 milligrams and 1.1 milligrams for an adult female. Pregnant women require 1.3 milligrams of riboflavin on a daily basis. Without meeting requirements, one would be putting himself at risk for riboflavin deficiency.

Although riboflavin deficiency is more frequent in underdeveloped countries where a healthy diet is less accessible, it is not uncommon to find individuals with riboflavin deficiency in developed countries. Those who practice veganism without proper attention to vitamin B levels may be at risk, as well as those who do not follow healthy eating habits.

It is important to manage vitamin B levels because a severe lack of it can cause serious consequences. It is often the culprit behind various skin disorders, liver disorders, as well as issues with regards to one’s reproductive and nervous systems. Below are some of the tell-tale signs of riboflavin deficiency symptoms.

Riboflavin Deficiency Symptoms

Cracked lips are a symptom of a riboflavin deficiency.

Iron-Deficiency Anemia

As we’ve learned earlier, riboflavin helps in the production of new red blood cells. A dip in the amount of riboflavin also means that there is a decrease in the amount of new red blood cells produced, resulting in iron-deficiency anemia. Although anemia is usually acquired by long-term riboflavin deficiency, this does not discount the importance of keeping a healthy level of riboflavin.

Iron-deficiency anemia alone causes multiple issues. Apart from constantly feeling tired and weak, anemic patients also experience dizziness, fatigue, and irregular heartbeats. Long term iron-deficiency anemia can even damage organs, especially the heart.

Angular Cheilitis and Cracked Lips

Cracked lips may not be a cause for concern, especially during the dry season. But coupled with evidence of angular cheilitis, it could be a sign of riboflavin deficiency. Angular cheilitis refers to the inflammation of one or both corners of the mouth. It can cause discomfort and itching with skin breakdown and crusting at the corners. In some severe cases, lesions may also occur. Severe angular cheilitis is associated with iron deficiency anemia as well, and they often go hand in hand.

Dry Skin

Apart from dry, cracked lips, dry skin is also an easy indicator of riboflavin deficiency. Again, this does not automatically mean that having dry skin is directly related to a lack of riboflavin. There are plenty of factors that may cause dry skin – allergies, dry weather, and many others. However, coupled with other symptoms on this list, dry skin makes an obvious symptom for riboflavin deficiency.

Inflammation of the Tongue

The redness of the tongue due to inflammation, otherwise known as the magenta tongue, is also a common symptom of riboflavin deficiency. However, it is important to note that such symptoms do not entail riboflavin deficiency alone. More often than not, the magenta tongue is a symptom of a general lack of water-soluble vitamins.

Mouth ulcers

Mouth ulcers are perhaps the earliest signs of riboflavin deficiency. Commonly, mouth ulcers do not automatically mean a severe lack of vitamin B2. It is usually a quick reaction to the lack of vitamin B2 in one’s body. However, this does not make it the lightest among all symptoms. Mouth ulcers can be very painful; and in some cases, it may take a longer amount of time to heal, especially for an individual with riboflavin deficiency,

Cataracts and Other Eye-Related Disorders

Several studies show that a lack of vitamin B2 may pose a risk to specific eye health problems such as glaucoma, cataracts, and keratoconus. Among all of them, glaucoma is the most alarming because it is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world.

Some of these eye-related disorders are associated with aging; however, research shows that an increased intake of riboflavin can significantly prevent eye disorders among older adults. Today, there are riboflavin drops which can be applied to the corneal surface of the eye. Patients with glaucoma have reported an improvement, thanks to the eye-strengthening benefits of the riboflavin drops.

Vitamin B2 Benefits

Vitamin B2 can improve depression.

Riboflavin Function

As we’ve learned earlier, riboflavin takes part in multiple body functions. Having a healthy dose of riboflavin is a great way to ensure overall health. But just like the riboflavin drops mentioned earlier, vitamin B2 is now used in attempts to cure certain diseases.

Although it may not provide a permanent cure, many reports claim an enhanced quality of living among patients. Here are some examples of vitamin B2 benefits as a cure for certain health issues.

Prevent and Treat Anemia

Iron-deficiency anemia is the number one tell-tale sign of riboflavin deficiency. And unsurprisingly, riboflavin is the sole solution in treating anemia. Apart from iron supplements, most doctors and health practitioners would recommend a diet filled with leafy greens and animal protein – especially liver. These food sources are rich in riboflavin, thus addressing the lack of the vitamin.

Improves Depression

Although more research is required to justify the relationship between depression and riboflavin, some studies suggest that an increased intake of riboflavin can improve depression among women. In relation to this study, some researches have also shown reports that some vitamins (vitamin B1, B2, and B6) effectively reduce bouts of depression among the elderly.

Also, it is interesting to note that depression is a common symptom among those with riboflavin deficiency. Although this does not necessarily mean that riboflavin is the answer to depression, it may be safe to assume that a lack of it may result in depression.

Aids in Growth and Repair

As mentioned earlier, vitamin B2 is used to metabolize food into energy and to maintain several body functions. This fact makes riboflavin a critical component in the growth and repair of the body. Without the required levels of riboflavin, fat and protein are not properly digested and processed into fuel. That fuel is needed in performing even the most basic natural body functions such as healing and growing.

There are many serious consequences that come with the inability to repair cells. Our cells need to be in good condition to sustain human life; a damaged cell can deter our body’s performance. This means that our wounds don’t heal as fast as we expect them to, and we are also at risk for plenty of diseases due to the body’s weak immunity level.

Defense Against Cancer

Cancer may be incurable today, but riboflavin provides hope in finding an effective treatment. Recent studies have shown that vitamin B2 intake is associated with common types of cancer such as colon cancer and breast cancer. Because vitamin B2 is known to enhance the immune system by acting as an antioxidant, it can possibly control the damaging free radicals found within the body.

On the same note, vitamin B2 is needed in the production of glutathione antioxidant. Just like vitamin B2, glutathione can effectively kill off the body’s free radicals. Although more research is required to justify the effectivity of riboflavin in preventing cancer, researchers have reason to believe that it can minimize the effects of cancer-causing elements within the body.

Prevents Neurological Diseases

Apart from research regarding cancer, some studies also show that vitamin B2 also has positive effects in treating several neurological diseases. Disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis respond well to the effects of riboflavin due to the possibility of its protective effects on the nervous system.

Riboflavin Toxicity

Riboflavin is very safe as a daily supplement. As of today, there are no reported adverse effects brought about by over-consumption of riboflavin in humans. This is most likely because riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin. Fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, for example, may lead to a condition called hypervitaminosis A – a medical term used to refer to overconsumption of vitamin A which results to changes in vision and skin as well as bone pain.

When our body contains more than the required vitamin B, absorption of the said vitamin becomes less efficient. As the dosage increases, our bodies simply reject absorption, and the excess is excreted via the kidneys. Our kidneys then excrete the excess vitamin B2 in the form of urine.

Riboflavin and Migraines: What’s the Connection?

A vitamin b2 deficiency can cause migraines.

You may have heard from various sources that riboflavin is the solution to frequent migraines. However, this should not be mistaken as a cure for migraines – riboflavin does not treat a migraine like over-the-counter medication. Instead, it provides prevention from frequent bouts of headaches and migraines.

The relationship between migraines and riboflavin can be found in the inner workings of our cells. As we all learned in school, the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. They are responsible for the overall maintenance of the cell’s structure and function.

In a study about migraines, some scientists believe that a mitochondrial defect is a cause behind the reduced threshold for migraine attacks. As a result, our brain becomes ultra-sensitive to factors that trigger a migraine. This is where riboflavin comes in. Because riboflavin plays an essential role in cell metabolism, it is also effective in overcoming the mitochondrial defect that causes migraines.


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