Vitamin B2

As children, most of us are taught the importance of vitamins. We should eat our veggies, drink our milk, take our daily multivitamin. However, that rarely means that we learn to differentiate one vitamin from another or what they specifically do to keep us healthy.

As we grow and change, we all have varying needs. This difference in needs can be better adapted to when we understand what each of the nutrients needed by our body does, and how getting more or less of them can affect us.

What Is It?

Vitamin B2 is also known as riboflavin. Riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin that makes up part of the b-complex. Riboflavin is known as one of the essential B-vitamins, taking an important role in your wellbeing.

What Is Its Biological Role?

Like the other B-vitamins, riboflavin helps your body properly break down carbohydrates into glucose, and simpler form of sugar that is easily used by the body for energy. Riboflavin is one of the compounds that helps properly maintain our adrenal function and nervous system.

It also is used as a coenzyme to help the other B-vitamins undergo necessary chemical changes that make them more useful to the body. Some newer, emerging research is suggesting that riboflavin in particular can also act as an antioxidant under certain circumstances.

Antioxidants are compounds in the body that fight harmful free radicals and help repair cell damage while preventing further cellular aging.

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

When riboflavin is processed by the body, it can be put to different uses. One such use involved breaking down riboflavin into simpler pieces. Some of these pieces then attach to protein molecules in the body, forming something called a flavoprotein.

Flavoproteins function in various parts of the body, but congregate in areas like skeletal muscle. This is because flavoproteins have the special job of providing energy in parts of the body where oxygen is a required part of the process.

Riboflavin, then, is partly responsible for the chain reaction that allows you to keep working your muscles beyond what would be required during normal activity. It helps to fuel your muscles, and helps in other reactions that are responsible for healing the cellular damage caused by extra stress on your muscles.

What Foods Contain It?

Hearty dietary sources of Riboflavin [1] include dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese; eggs, meat (particularly liver), and dark greens like collards or broccoli. Some foods such as certain types of cereals and breads are also fortified with riboflavin--check the label to be sure.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

Riboflavin is recommended in different amounts [2] based on age and gender. For adults (19 and over), the recommended daily allowance is 1.3mg for males and 1.1mg for females.

Females who are pregnant are recommended to increase their daily intake to 1.4mg, while females who are breastfeeding are recommended to further increase to 1.6mg. While you should always talk to your doctor regarding additional supplementation, higher dosages have been used therapeutically to treat migraines, infant jaundice, anemia, cataracts, depression, and certain difficulties with basic cognitive function.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

As with any other water-soluble vitamin, it is quite difficult to reach toxic levels of riboflavin in the body. However, high dosages can have some side effects including light sensitivity, formation of kidney stones, itching or numbness of the skin, and a curious phenomenon where urine temporarily turns bright yellow as excess riboflavin is expelled by the body.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

As one of the essential B-vitamins, low levels of riboflavin in the body [3] will certainly be noticed. Typically, symptoms will begin if you consume no more than half the recommended daily intake.

This may begin as a generalized feeling of weakness, accompanied by dermatitis or other skin irritations. Deficiency can also cause swelling of the throat and tongue. Eventually, riboflavin deficiency can cause problems with your vision, resulting in itchy, watery or bloodshot eyes, blurred vision and increased light sensitivity.

Another symptom of pronounced riboflavin deficiency is becoming quickly fatigued when attempting normal activities. While riboflavin deficiency can happen to anybody, some groups at higher risk are: alcoholics, the elderly, and those on birth control medications.

Final Take

Hopefully this short explanation has shed some light on what Vitamin B2 does, and how it affects you. As amazing as it sounds, riboflavin is an incredible powerhouse responsible for all kinds of things we are largely unaware of that keep us healthy.

So much of what our body needs to function properly and help us feel our best is in the foods that nature provides to us; it’s simply a matter of learning what we need and where to find it.


[1] Wikipedia. Riboflavin. Wikipedia, 2017.

[2] Office Of Dietary Supplements, National Institute Of Health. Riboflavin-Health Professional Fact Sheet. US Department of Health and Human Services, 2016.

[3] Higdon, Jane et al. Riboflavin. Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center, 2016.