B2: Riboflavin Benefits and Side Effects
Don V. Richards
B2 - also called "riboflavin" after "ribose," the sugar
which forms part of its chemical makeup, and "flavus," for its
typical yellow color - is a water-soluble vitamin, necessary for
human metabolic processes in the body including cell function,
growth, and the production of energy. Vitamin B2 is needed for the
formation of every single one of our red blood cells and antibodies.
Riboflavin is essential for assuring proper growth and development of
our reproductive systems, and for the necessary growth of all our
body tissues such as skin, ligaments, eyes, nasal passages, nerves
and our all-important immune system. Riboflavin also helps produce
healthy skin, nails, and hair, and it aids in regulating thyroid
activity (which controls how rapidly the body uses food energy and is
a major factor in how energetic you feel). Riboflavin helps in the
absorption of minerals like iron and folic acid and also helps the
body absorb other Vitamins like B1, B3, B6 and others. Riboflavin
also helps to enhance our bodies natural immune system by
increasing our reserves of antibodies.
bright orangish-yellow color of riboflavin is what imparts that shade
to most B complex and multivitamin supplements, and in fact Vitamin
B2 is registered in Europe for use specifically as a safe food
coloring agent! Interestingly, because riboflavin fluoresces under
ultraviolet light, it has often been used to detect leaks or
demonstrate liquid delivery system coverage in industrial
applications. A recent development is the use of Vitamin B2 for the
3-D printing of replacement body parts or microneedles used for
painless cell-level injections. Formerly, there were side effects
from the substances typically used in 3-D printing, but riboflavin is
largely non-toxic and so promises to significantly advance progress
in this field.
the B vitamins - often referred to as the "B complex" of
nutrients or vitamins - help the body metabolize protein and fat.
They convert carbohydrates - food - into glucose - fuel - for
our cells and as such are essential for life.
is necessary for the normal development and function of many bodily
organs, especially the skin, the linings of the stomach and
intestines, and blood cells.
to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Riboflavin also has an
"antioxidant" effect. Oxidants are harmful particles in the
body sometimes called "free radicals." These particles cause
damage to cells over time and are strongly implicated as one of the
major factors in the degeneration of formerly healthy tissue and in
the aging process itself. Free radicals can even damage DNA, and when
they do, cells reproduce defectively, which can sometimes lead to
cancer. As an antioxidant, Vitamin B2 is thought to help preserve
youthful good health, both by itself and in synergy with other
antioxidants and nutrients.
its water-soluble, its not stored in body fats like some other
nutrients and excess amounts are flushed out in the urine. So, to
maintain health, we need not only a sufficient
supply of riboflavin, we also need a
supply. Trace amounts of riboflavin are found in the tissues of most
animals and plants, so eating a natural, healthy diet usually gives
us the necessary amount of B2 without supplementation.
riboflavin sources include milk (and dairy products generally), eggs,
green vegetables (notably asparagus and broccoli), almonds,
mushrooms, soybeans, yogurt, cereals and grains enriched with Vitamin
B2, asparagus, popcorn, bananas, and most animal-based foods. Vegans
and vegetarians especially should take care to get enough of this
vital nutrient. Yeast extract is particularly rich in B2.
deficiency is called "ariboflavinosis" - and, naturally, adding
Vitamin B2 in such cases is called for. Some symptoms of
ariboflavinosis are anemia (low red blood cell count), weakness,
dandruff, fatigue, dizziness, hair loss, loss of sleep, poor
digestion, slowed mental response, swelling of the throat or tongue,
sensitivity to light, skin irritation, and skin cracking or soreness
at the edges of the lips. Though the full-blown deficiency is rare,
it is sometimes seen among those with very poor diets, severe or
chronic diseases, alcoholics, the poor, and elderly. Though often
associated with the very poor diets of Third World countries, it is
estimated that some 28 million Americans suffer from "sub-clinical"
those who are anemic, it is often found that their riboflavin levels
are also low, and the effectiveness of the iron therapy usually used
in such cases is increased by restoring normal riboflavin levels via
supplementation or diet changes.
supplementation along with light exposure (phototherapy) has been
found helpful for infants with neonatal jaundice.
a preliminary study of 31 patients afflicted with Parkinsons
disease, every single individual showed, when tested, evidence of
Vitamin B2 deficiency. All of those patients who were given 30 mg of
riboflavin three times daily for six months showed definite
improvements in motor skills and strength. The improvements were
evident at three months and were maintained or even improved further
at the end of the six month period. (One flaw in this study is that
all participants also stopped eating red meat during the trial, and
it is not known if this was a synergistic factor in combination with
the Vitamin B2 supplementation.)
studies suggest that Vitamin B2 can have a positive role in the
treatment and prevention of cataracts, and research is ongoing in
patients being treated with tricyclic antidepressants, its been
found that boosting Vitamin B2 levels improves their scores for both
cognitive function and depression. Its thought that the
antidepressants themselves may partially suppress normal riboflavin
levels, making supplementation a good idea. Some nutritionists
believe that Vitamin B2 by itself can be helpful in preventing
those suffering from anorexia or bulemia, its often noted that
their blood levels of vital nutrients are low - and nearly a third
are deficient in Vitamin B2. While dietary changes are obviously
called for in such situations, supplementation can have a role while
a program of healthy eating is being instituted.
research also suggests Vitamin B2 in high doses may help prevent
migraine headaches. Taking 400 mg per day of riboflavin reduced the
number of migraine attacks according to these studies, though it
didnt reduce the perceived pain they caused when they did occur.
high doses, Vitamin B2 can cause an increase in urine flow and will
color the urine orange. It can also cause diarrhea. But it is
considered otherwise safe. The body will regulate riboflavin levels
itself with no ill effects. In the recommended dietary allowance
range of 1.4 to 1.6 mg per day, it is also considered safe for
pregnant and breastfeeding women - larger doses may be safe, too,
but not enough studies have been done to allow certainty, so be
amount of Vitamin B2 you need will vary depending on your personal
health and conditions you may be suffering. For most people, eating a
healthy, natural diet rich in green vegetables will provide all the
riboflavin you need for normal health.
from migraine headaches typically take a daily dose of 400 mg of
Vitamin B2 over a period of several months.
youre dealing with low levels of riboflavin in your blood (Vitamin
B2 deficiency) adults typically supplement with 5 to 30 mg every day,
separated into several doses.
who are following the program for preventing cataracts suggested by
some studies take 2.6 mg of riboflavin daily, some along with 40 mg
of niacin too.
official adult recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for Vitamin B2 are
(daily figures) are 1.1 mg for non-pregnant or breastfeeding women,
and 1.3 mg for men. These values are closely tied to energy
expenditure - so those who are highly active may need more than
these allowances for normal functioning.
the RDA for Vitamin B2 in Russia is approximately twice the US level
- but thats still comparitively low. Nevertheless, about 71
percent of Americans would fall below adequate B2 levels if judged by
the Russian RDA.
you use supplements to achieve the optimal levels of riboflavin,
remember that increasing your intake of just one of the B complex
vitamins can lead to an imbalance. As long as all safe dosage levels
are maintained, its usually better to take a B complex supplement
which maintains the natural balance between these beneficial
nutrients. Its also thought that they have a synergistic effect
when taken together - that is, the benefits of the entire complex
are greater than the sum of those of the individual vitamins.
scientists at the Life Extension Foundation believe that higher than
maintenance doses will have a beneficial effect and they include 50
mg of Vitamin B2 in their daily "Life Extension Mix" vitamin and
nutrient recommendations - almost 3,000 percent greater than the
RDA (though still well under the doses routinely used by migraine
patients). Many commonly available supplements provide around half
this level - 20 to 25 mg, still far above the RDA.
is not at all toxic when ingested by mouth, though it is possible to
achieve toxic doses via injection. Even those given 400 mg per day in
the migraine study - far beyond the putative life extension dose -
exhibited no short-term side effects at all.
considering supplements, consider ones made with natural instead of
synthetic Vitamin B2. Synthetic riboflavin is supposed to be
virtually identical to the natural variety, but some synthetic
varieties are produced through the fermentation of genetically
modified bacteria, and many health-conscious people are trying to
eliminate GMOs (genetically modified organisms) from their diets on
the grounds that we just dont know their long-term effects on
living things yet. Synthetics can usually be identified by having the
letters dl- in front of the nutrients name on the ingredients
list, or by having substances ending in -ide, -acid, or -ate as
additional ingredients (these are salts or other additives used to
make the synthetic forms last longer). Natural-source vitamins also
contain trace elements that our bodies have evolved over millennia to
ingest along with the foods we eat.
level and source of Vitamin B2 you choose, remember that our purpose
here is to help you make an informed choice - and take charge of
your health yourself
instead of leaving it in the hands of others. Our diets may be poorer
than ever in general today, but its also true that access to the
latest research and facts about nutrition and health has
never been easier than it is today.
Take advantage of the information revolution, and use your own
reasoning and judgment - and change your life for the better today!
18th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier, 2007
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S.C., Wade, F.M., et al, "High-dose riboflavin for migraine
prophylaxis in children: a double-blind, randomized,
placebo-controlled trial," Journal
of Child Neurology,
2008 Nov; 23(11):1300-4
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