The vitamins information pages - Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Description Vitamin B2
Vitamin B2, generally referred to as riboflavin, is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin. In the human body, it is an integral component of various coenzymes.
Functions of Vitamin B2
Riboflavin is a component of various coenzymes that play an important role in oxidation and reduction reactions in numerous metabolic pathways, such as those of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It promotes regular patterns of growth and development. It assists energy release from food and is part of the electron transport chain which is central to energy production. It plays a key role in mucus membrane maintenance, in fertility and in the maintenance of health of eyes, skin and nervous system. When riboflavin deficiency occurs, symptoms such as dry, red and flaky skin, cracked lips, sore throat and tongue, cracks and sores on the lips (cheliosis), irritated eyes, light sensitivity, poor concentration, memory loss and a burning sensation in the feet are common. Additionally, red blood cell levels may decrease. Riboflavin deficiency frequently occurs in combination with deficiencies of other water-soluble vitamins. It can lead to decreased conversion of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) to coenzymes and decreased niacin (vitamin B3) production.
Vitamin B2 in food
Trace amounts of riboflavin can be found in beef, lamb liver, wild rice, pasta, soy milk, wholegrain cereals, yeast, pulses, seeds and dairy products. When food is left in direct sunlight, riboflavin may be destroyed. White flour and bread are enriched with riboflavin.
Vitamin B2 as a supplement
Riboflavin is recommended to pregnant and breastfeeding women. Women on contraceptive pills or oestrogen packages also require this vitamin. Elderly people, athletes, young people experiencing growth spurts, people suffering from stress and alcohol and drug abusers benefit from additional riboflavin. Finally, people with ulcers may also receive such treatment.
Riboflavin disturbs antibiotic adsorption and may therefore not be taken in at the same time with antibiotics. The same goes for anti-cancer drugs. Riboflavin deficiency may cause impairment of iron adsorption, intestinal iron losses and impairment of iron utilization for haemoglobin synthesis. The underlying mechanism is not entirely clear, but evidence has shown that iron-deficient anaemia can be treated by iron therapy better when riboflavin stocks are also replenished.
People under age 12 or people experiencing kidney failure may not use riboflavin. Diuretics may increase riboflavin requirements. Alcoholics have a higher risk of riboflavin deficiency as a result of decreased intake and adsorption, and impairment of utilization. people with lactose intolerance are more likely to experience a riboflavin deficiency when they do not replace these sources of the vitamin by alternatives.
Descriptions of vitamins on this website are based on information provided by BBC Health and The Linus Pauling Institute.