What is Riboflavin or Vitamin B2
As most of you already know, normal urine should be pale yellow or straw yellow in color. How about bright yellow urine – is it normal? For those of you reading this that have experienced instances of bright yellow urine, that’s probably because you have excess Vitamin B2 in your body.
Vitamin B2, otherwise known as Riboflavin, comes from Ribose (sugar) + Flavin (yellow). You may be surprised to find out that Vitamin B2 was originally known as Vitamin G!
Vitamin B2 belongs to a group of B-complex vitamins which are involved in energy metabolism (energy production). Similar to Vitamin C, B-complex vitamins are water-soluble vitamins and get excreted from our urine on a daily basis. They are essential for good health and therefore, it is important to replenish our intake from the daily diet as the body is unable to store any of it.
Aside from normal growth and development, Vitamin B2 contributes to energy production by allowing energy to be released from the macronutrients we consume – namely, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. It helps in red blood cell production and builds up glucose molecules into the complex carbohydrate (glycogen). Glycogen is stored in the liver as a form of energy for later usage by the body.
By converting the amino acid, tryptophan, Vitamin B2 allows the production of Vitamin B3 (niacin). Not to forget that Vitamin B2 protects our nervous system and maintains mucous membranes – the mucus secreting layer that lines body regions such as the respiratory tract.
How much Riboflavin or Vitamin B2 Do You Need Per Day
Recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) help individuals in knowing how much to consume; and vary across different genders and age group. They are dependent on the physical activity level and health condition of the individual as well.
The Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S. Institute of Medicine recommends 1.3mg/day and 1.1mg/day for males and females respectively. Pregnant women will require 1.4mg/day and lactating women require 1.6mg/day to meet increased body’s needs. No upper limits (ULs) have been established yet.
Dietary Reference Intakes
|Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes (mg/day)||Males||Females|
|0 – 6 months||0.3*AI|
|7 – 12 months||0.4*AI|
|1 – 3 years||0.5|
|4 – 8 years||0.6|
|9 – 13 years||0.9|
|14 – 18 years||1.3||1.0|
|19 years and above||1.3||1.1|
An Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) is the average daily nutrient intake level estimated to meet the requirements of half of the healthy individuals in a group. If sufficient scientific evidence is not available to establish an EAR, and thus calculate an RDA, an AI is usually developed. For healthy breastfed infants, an AI is the mean intake. Mg refers to milligrams.
Signs of Vitamin B2/Riboflavin Deficiencies and Symptoms
Vitamin B2 deficiency, known as ariboflavinosis can be classified into Primary or Secondary types.
Ariboflavinosis is typically associated with broader nutrient deficiencies and overall malnutrition. In other words, individuals with ariboflavinosis tend to be lacking in other B-complex group vitamins at the same time. Specific deficiency symptoms can be hard to identify.
- Primary deficiency is attributed to an insufficient consumption of the vitamin from the diet.
- Secondary deficiency can be a result of conditions that affect absorption in the intestine, or the body being unable to use the vitamin. It can also be due to an increase in the amount of vitamin B2 excreted from the body.
Mild deficiencies can exceed 50% of the population in third world countries and refugee situations. It is uncommon in the United States and in countries that have diets comprising of flour, bread, pasta, or rice enrichment regulations.
General symptoms include fatigue and general weakness. The obvious signs of vitamin B2 deficiency are in relative to the eyes, skin, and mouth. Thus, riboflavin deficiency is classically associated with the oral-ocular-genital syndrome.
- Dry, scaly, flaky skin
- Dry and cracked lips
- Red lips
- Cracking at angles of mouth
- Inflammation of mouth
- Mouth ulcers
- Sore and bleeding gums
- Painful tongue
- Sore and inflamed tongue (Glossitis)
- Inflammation and ulceration of mucous membranes lining the digestive tract (Mucositis)
- Blurred vision
- Blood-shot eyes
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Increased eye sensitivity to bright light
Along with other nutrients, vitamin B2 is important for vision. It reduces the risk of cataract formation and damage to the lens of the eyes.
As Vitamin B2 is involved in many important cell processes including metabolism of other B vitamins, a severe deficiency of Vitamin B2 can lead to a deficiency of Vitamin B3 (niacin).
Vitamin B2 deficiency is rare but tends to occur in alcoholics with poor diets and in people with diseases which interfere with riboflavin utilization, such as thyroid disease. People with chronic illnesses or substance abuse problems, pregnant women, vegetarian athletes and the elderly are considered vulnerable groups at risk of vitamin B2 deficiency.
Aggressive medication protocols for cancer and AIDS have been reported to result in vitamin B2 deficiency. It has also been noted in some indigenous populations that consume diets devoid of plant foods. Individuals on FAD diets also tend to be lacking in vitamin B2.
The good news is that earlier changes associated with riboflavin deficiency are easily reversed.
Top 10 Foods that provide the most Vitamin B2
Milkmen used to have milk delivered in glass bottles. Ever wondered why milk does not come in glass bottles anymore?
Aside from the fact that they are fragile, it is due to the high content of riboflavin in milk. However, as riboflavin is sensitive to light, putting it in a glass bottle will destroy most of the vitamin. Therefore, milk-friendly containers in the modern world tend to be mostly opaque. The same applies to other dairy products.
Liver (from lamb, beef, veal, turkey, or chicken)
An excellent source of iron and riboflavin – contains 2.3mg of riboflavin in 1 slice of liver.
Goat’s dairy is richer in essential nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin B, riboflavin, calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. It tends to be received better by lactose intolerant individuals too.
1 cup of these mushrooms will provide you with 0.4mg of riboflavin. A good source of selenium, zinc, and manganese.
Aside from riboflavin, eggs serve as an excellent source of protein.
1 cup of seaweed can give you approximately 3.7 to 4mg of riboflavin. Additionally, it contains calcium to help build strong bones.
Important tip: Consume as much calcium as possible before you hit 30 years old – before your peak bone mass occurs. Make sure to couple it with Vitamin D for optimal absorption.
1 serving of grapes (10 grapes) contains 0.9g of riboflavin. Amazingly, it is high in both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber whereas most others only contain one form of fiber.
Yeast extract spread (Marmite)
One of the best sources of riboflavin. Simply add 1 teaspoon to your food and you get 2.5mg of riboflavin. It is also an excellent source of niacin- 7.7mg in just 1 teaspoon of Marmite. However, watch out for the sodium when consuming marmite.
1 cup of whole almonds will provide you with 1.6mg of riboflavin. Almonds also contain healthy unsaturated fats which increase your good (HDL) cholesterol levels.
Fortified breakfast cereals
One cup of Kellogg’s All-Bran Complete Wheat Flakes for breakfast will increase your daily riboflavin consumption by 1.7mg!
Choose wholegrain/wholemeal options whenever possible; they keep you full for a longer period of time aside from containing more riboflavin.
The Important Health Benefits of Vitamin B2
A lack of vitamin B2 can impair blood cell production. Vitamin B2 appears to be necessary to incorporate dietary iron into the forming red blood cell.When someone experiences a riboflavin deficiency without enough Vitamin B2 present in the diet, it increases their risk for developing anemia.
Increased resistance to diseases
Just like any other vitamin or mineral, meeting the recommended daily intake of vitamin B2 in the diet strengthens the immune system thus allowing an increased resistance to bacteria and viruses.
Normal cell growth/development and tissue repair
Vitamin B2 ensures proper growth and development of the reproductive organs, and the growth of body tissues such as the skin, connective tissue, eyes, mucous membranes, nervous system and the immune system.
Several studies have shown that the frequency and duration of migraines are reduced after consuming riboflavin. The Canadian Headache Society recommends 400 mg/day riboflavin for migraine headache prevention. More research is required on this.
Riboflavin has been shown to reduce high blood pressure in patients with cardiovascular problems. Another way to reduce high blood pressure is to consume bananas.
Regulate thyroid function
Riboflavin is required to regulate proper thyroid activity and adrenal function. Deficiency can increase the odds of thyroid disease.
Slow the rate of progression of myopia
A study done with children appeared to show a trend towards a reduction in the average rate of myopia progression.
Early studies suggest that riboflavin might help prevent cataracts and damage to the lens of the eye, which can lead to cloudy vision.
Accelerate healing of skin lesions such as ulcers or burns
Vitamin B2 ensures skin healing process, healthy nails and hair growth.
Clear up cases of acne and rosacea
Studies have focused on the therapeutic effects of riboflavin in psoriasis, with various percentages of improvement reported.
Side Effects of Consuming too much Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin
The body normally contains low levels of free riboflavin, but it is easy to get abnormally high levels of it through supplementation. Many supplementations available in the market contain an excessive amount of riboflavin which is unnecessary for the human body.
As the saying goes, “too much of anything is good for nothing”. The same rule applies to vitamins and minerals – only consume supplementation if necessary and after consultation with a doctor or dietitian.
Riboflavin supplementation can result in a bright yellow colored urine. This is due to the intense yellow color of riboflavin and has no significant health consequences. Some people have reported diarrhea after consuming vitamin B2 in high doses.
The Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S. Institute of Medicine set tolerable upper limits (ULs) for vitamins and minerals when adequate evidence is present. However, there has been no human data for adverse effects attributed to high doses of riboflavin. The European Safety Authority has reached the same conclusion. Riboflavin is considered relatively non-toxic as it can be easily excreted via the kidneys into urine.
Tips on how to increase Vitamin B2 intake naturally and easily
Avoid over-exposure to sunlight
Heat from cooking and air does minor damage to riboflavin, but it is significantly degraded by prolonged exposure to light. When exposed to sun, milk in a glass loses 10% of its vitamin B2 in an hour.
Reduce consumption of processed or refined grains
B-complex vitamins are lost through the refining process of cereals, grains, and flour. This is why it is common practice to fortify cereal products with B-complex vitamins. Choose whole grains options whenever possible as most of the vitamins and minerals will be retained.
Vitamin B2 is commonly added to processed foods such as bread to fortify their vitamin content or as a coloring agent. It has a strong yellow color and is used in minute amounts to color foods such as ice cream, sauces, and soup. It is found in the bran layer of grain and up to 60% is lost when the grain is refined.
Choose fresh over canned vegetables
Canned vegetables are subjected to high heat during the canning process and thus contain significantly lesser B-complex vitamins as compared to their fresh counterparts.
A perfect alternative to plain water in the summer! No sugar added, no excess calories and a load of vitamins and minerals. It can be prepared with any combination of fruits, vegetables, and herbs immersed in cold or room temperature water.
Grab some fruits and mix it up with herbs/spices such as rosemary or cinnamon. It’s all up to your own creativity! With B-complex group vitamins and vitamin C being water-soluble, you are bound to get a healthy thirst-quencher. Chuck it in the fridge and allow it to steep for the flavor to be released. You can pour it into a pitcher and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.
Cooking method and time
Vitamins get leached out into the water a food is soaked in. Unless you are planning to make soup, and hence plan to consume the liquid it is cooked in, you should opt to steam or quickly sauté your vegetables over high heat. Make sure your pot is already hot before adding ingredients.
To keep cooking times brief, cutting your vegetables into small and thinner slices allow the food to cook faster, and thus retaining more vitamins.
Vitamin B2 has been found to be surprisingly stable when refrigerated. Research has found a negligible nutrient loss of vitamin B2 over three days of refrigeration.