Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Vitamin B2: Riboflavin

Vitamin B2, also called riboflavin, is a water-soluble vitamin. Water-soluble vitamins are stored in the body in very limited amounts and are excreted through the urine. Therefore, it is a good idea to have them in your daily diet. Vitamin B2 is a component of two enzymes: flavin mononucleotide (FMN) and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD). These coenzymes are important in energy production.

Functions ^

Riboflavin’s functions include:

Recommended Intake ^

Age Group (in years) Recommended Dietary Allowance
Females Males
1-3 0.5 milligrams (mg) 0.5 mg
4-8 0.6 mg 0.6 mg
9-13 0.9 mg 0.9 mg
14-18 1.0 mg 1.3 mg
19+ 1.1 mg 1.3 mg
Pregnancy 1.4 mg n/a
Lactation 1.6 mg n/a

Riboflavin Deficiency ^

Riboflavin deficiency occurs as part of multiple nutrient deficiency states. Since riboflavin occurs in a wide variety of foods, deficiency symptoms are rare. Symptoms have been reported when daily riboflavin intake falls below 0.6 milligrams (mg). Symptoms of riboflavin deficiency include:

Riboflavin Toxicity ^

Riboflavin is relatively nontoxic. Although no adverse effects have been associated with high intakes of riboflavin from food or supplements, the potential may exist. Therefore, caution may be warranted with excessive amounts of riboflavin.

Major Food Sources ^

Food Serving size Riboflavin content
Beef, cooked 3 ounces 0.15 milligrams (mg)
Broccoli, cooked ½ cup 0.1 mg
Spinach, cooked ½ cup 0.21 mg
Milk, skim 1 cup 0.45 mg
Egg 1 large 0.26 mg
Whole wheat bread 1 slice 0.06 mg

Health Implications ^

Populations at Risk for Riboflavin Deficiency

The following populations may be at risk for riboflavin deficiency and may require a supplement:

  • People who consume excessive amounts of alcohol
  • People with other nutrient deficiencies
  • People with anorexia nervosa

Prevention of Cataracts

Evidence that links riboflavin to the prevention of cataracts is unclear. Two large studies showed decreases in cataract rates in people over 65 years taking multivitamins, minerals, riboflavin, and riboflavin with niacin. Although the studies showed decreased risk of cataracts, the mixing of the vitamins made it difficult to tell which supplement caused the benefits.

Treatment of Migraine Headaches

Talk to your doctor about using riboflavin supplements if you have migraine headaches. In some adults, 400 mg per day may prevent migraines or reduce the number of migraine attacks.

Tips for Increasing Your Intake ^

To help increase your intake of riboflavin, include some dairy products in your daily diet. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are all good sources of riboflavin. Here are some other examples of foods with riboflavin:

Riboflavin is rapidly destroyed with exposure to sunlight. Therefore, foods containing riboflavin are best stored in a pantry, in bins, and, when perishable, in the refrigerator.

RESOURCES:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
http://www.eatright.org

United States Department of Agriculture
http://www.usda.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

Health Canada Food and Nutrition
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

Migraine prophylaxis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 9, 2015. Accessed February 11, 2015.

Riboflavin. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 8, 2013. Accessed February 11, 2015.

Riboflavin deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 20, 2011. Accessed February 11, 2015.

Riboflavin. The Linus Pauling Institute website. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/riboflavin. Updated July 2013. Accessed February 11, 2015.

Sperduto RD, Hu TS, et al. The Linxian cataract studies. Two nutrition intervention trials. Arch Ophthalmol. 1993;111(9):1246-1253.

Vitamin B2. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated September 18, 2014. Accessed February 11, 2015.

Last reviewed February 2015 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 2/11/2015