Basics & Facts
Vitamin B2 is an essential nutrient that helps maintain overall health through cell metabolism, and it also helps supports an athletic lifestyle. Also called riboflavin, this is just one of the eight vitamins that makes up the Vitamin B complex. It is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that the body can easily process it while naturally emitting excess nutrients through urine. While it is not easy to overdose on vitamin B2, it is a common nutrient deficiency in people across the world. Deficiency can not only lead to fatigue, but low amounts of vitamin B2 can lead to chronic illnesses overtime. If a doctor suspects a vitamin B2 deficiency, it is important to get tested and treated as appropriate.
Sources of Vitamin B2
Vitamin B2 is naturally found in:
- Fortified cereal
- Leafy green vegetables
- Wild rice
Aside from a natural presence in certain foods, vitamin B2 is also included in over-the-counter supplements. The most common form is a multi-vitamin, which is available through numerous brands at pharmacies and health stores. Multi-vitamins contain 100-percent daily value for riboflavin, along with other vitamins of the B complex. Such supplements are considered a good source of nutrients for people with poor diets, as well as those on a weight loss eating plan. If a patient is solely deficient in vitamin B2, however, a physician may recommend a separate riboflavin supplement. A multi-supplement is generally most appropriate to help ensure patients get all the necessary B vitamins, and not just riboflavin.
Riboflavin is one of the many necessary nutrients the body needs in order to function on a day to day basis. It specifically helps support eye health and blood flow to prevent headaches and muscle cramps. In addition, some health practitioners recommend vitamin B2 for acne, boosting immunity and canker sores.
Vitamin B2 deficiency is considered uncommon, due to the wide availability of the nutrient through foods and supplements. Still, thousands of people may suffer from too little riboflavin every year. Immediate consequences of not getting enough vitamin B2 include fatigue, light sensitivity and gastrointestinal ailments. Such symptoms are prominent in individuals who do not eat a balanced diet.
More serious health problems can occur from long-term vitamin B2 deficiency. Since the nutrient is essential to vision health, some patients may develop cataracts from lack of riboflavin. Cataracts cause vision problems as a result of direct damage to the lenses. While vitamin B2 promotes healthy vision, it is important to note that no single nutrient can prevent future cataracts.
Another common riboflavin deficiency is headaches. Some physicians prescribe vitamin B2 supplements for patients with recurring head pain, which is most often caused from tension. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, over 45 million headache sufferers in the U.S. require medical attention.
Vitamin B2 toxicity is considered rare. Still, extremely high doses can cause unwanted side effects. The University of Maryland Medical Center says taking too much riboflavin can cause excessive skin itching, light sensitivity and numbness. Taking more than 10 mg per day may lead to permanent eye damage after sun exposure, so it is important to wear sunglasses when outdoors.
This vitamin may also interact with certain medications, so it is important to talk with a doctor before taking any supplements. Taking certain medicines with vitamin B2 can cause ineffectiveness of both the prescription and the supplement. Drugs that are of special concern include:
- Asthma medicines
- Rheumatoid arthritis medications
The University of Maryland Medical Center advises adult men need 1.3 mg of vitamin B2 per day, while adult women require 1.1 mg. The average multivitamin contains 1.7 mg of riboflavin. Pregnant women should have an intake of 1.4 mg, while nursing women need 1.6 mg per day. It is important to discuss vitamin B2 requirements with a doctor; recommended daily allowances are appropriate for most people, but some individuals may need more or less depending on their current health statuses.
Parents should also take special note of how much vitamin B2 their children need. The recommended daily allowance for infants is under 0.4 mg per day. With growth, the daily allowance increases as follows:
- Ages 1-3: 0.5 mg
- Ages 4-8: 0.6 mg
- Ages 9-13: 0.9 mg
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, boys 14 to 18 years of age need 1.3 mg of vitamin B2 per day, while girls in the same age group require just 1 mg.
Testing & Diagnosis
A doctor may recommend a B vitamin test to measure levels of riboflavin and other related nutrients in the blood. The results can help diagnose health conditions where either a vitamin B2 deficiency or toxicity is suspected. For example, a patient with frequent headaches may have test results that show riboflavin deficiency. It is important to go through all tests as ordered by a physician to help make a proper health diagnosis.
Vitamin B2 is considered an essential nutrient due to all the important body functions it helps maintain. It is relatively easy to obtain the vitamin through a balanced diet, but deficiencies might require supplementation as recommended by a medical doctor.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine
- Lab Tests Online
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
- University of Maryland Health Center