Vitamin B2 Facts: Everything You Need to Know

Unlike vitamins A, D and C, vitamin B is actually a group of different vitamins, each of which has its own characteristics, function and side effects. Vitamin B2, more commonly known as riboflavin, is one of member of the group of B vitamins. In this article, riboflavin's properties and uses are explored to determine why this vitamin is so important to human health.

What Does Vitamin B2 Do?

One of the main functions of riboflavin is producing energy for the body. Like all B vitamins, riboflavin is necessary in order for the body to convert carbohydrates from food into glucose. Additionally, riboflavin helps the body metabolize proteins and fats. Many people look for foods that are high in riboflavin for an energy boost or to improve their performance as an athlete. Essentially, you need vitamin B2 in order to keep your body functioning properly and to get energy from the foods you eat.

That's not all that riboflavin does for your body, however. It also helps keep your nervous system and your immune system working properly. By consuming riboflavin regularly, you can also maintain healthy hair and skin and contribute to the health of your eyes and liver. Riboflavin has also been linked to healthy reproductive functioning, so people looking to start a family may want to ensure that they are getting an adequate amount of vitamin B2 in their diets.

One of the more unique functions of riboflavin is that it combats some of the effects of aging, particularly memory loss. Ensuring that you get enough vitamin B2 in your diet may help to slow the tendency of the memory to fade as you age or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Overall, riboflavin is an essential for any diet, but it can be especially helpful for older individuals or people with memory problems.

Food Sources of Vitamin B2

Like many other B vitamins, riboflavin is found in a wide range of healthy foods. Lean meats and eggs are especially rich sources of vitamin B2. You can also get riboflavin from nuts, legumes, milk and other dairy products. Green leafy vegetables are also another great source of riboflavin.

Another way to get your riboflavin fix is by paying careful attention to food labels when you go grocery shopping. Many breads, cereals and pastas are fortified with extra riboflavin. You can even find some enriched flours which have higher levels of vitamin B2. These are also excellent ways to add riboflavin to your diet from foods that do not naturally contain significant amounts of this vitamin.

Studies have found that riboflavin can be destroyed by light sources. That means that if you store your food in a glass container and it is exposed to the light, then it will no longer give you the health benefits of vitamin B2. For the best results and highest level of riboflavin health benefits, store your foods (especially those mentioned above) in opaque containers and keep them well away from any light source.

Side Effects

Because vitamin B2 is natural and water-soluble, it doesn't stay in the body. Unused riboflavin passes out of the body through urine. However, when high amounts of vitamin B2 are consumed, the urine may appear as a yellow-orange color. Other side effects of high riboflavin levels may include diarrhea and increased urination. In general, these side effects are only found in rare cases, and high levels of riboflavin are scarcely reached by the average individual.

Though they are not extremely dangerous, there are some medications that can affect how your body reacts to riboflavin. If you take any drying medications or Phenobarbital, then these drugs may affect how your body absorbs or breaks down any riboflavin you ingest. Meanwhile, probenecid can increase the amount of riboflavin in your body, and depression medications can decrease that amount. Consult your physician before making any changes to your diet in terms of riboflavin consumption.

Deficiency Symptoms

Because of its abundance in common foods, riboflavin deficiency is very rare in the U.S. However, if a vitamin B2 deficiency does occur, symptoms like a sore throat, mouth or lip sores, and skin disorders may result. Additionally, long-term riboflavin deficiencies can lead to anemia.

Daily Dosage Recommendations

The recommended daily dosages for riboflavin vary based on both age and sex. From birth to the age of 6 months, infants should get about 0.3 milligrams (mg) of riboflavin per day. From 7 months to 12 months, that amount should increase to 0.4 mg per day. From the age of 1 to 3, children should consume about 0.5 mg of vitamin B2 a day; from ages 4 to 8, about 0.6 mg per day; and from ages 9 to 13, about 0.9 mg a day.

Once kids reach the age of 14, their recommended dosages vary by sex. Once males reach the age of 14, they should consume about 1.3 mg a day. For women, the recommendation is 1 mg a day from ages 14 to 18, then 1.1 mg per day from the age of 19 on.

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