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Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) Benefits, Side Effects, Uses & Warnings

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) Benefits, Side Effects, Uses & Warnings
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

Medically reviewed by

Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 5 min read

Vitamin B2, also known as Riboflavin, acts as an antioxidant in the body. It is responsible for many functions in the body including maintaining healthy blood cells, it is effective in boosting low energy levels, and it helps facilitate a healthy metabolic function/rate. This can help prevent weight gain or difficulties in maintaining your weight, which is often the case in those who are deficient in this water-soluble vitamin. Riboflavin is also linked to helping reduce oxidative stress and the release of free radicals in the systems. This means it can help to fight the signs of aging, it helps fight wrinkles and crows-feet, and it can help get rid of those dark under-eye bags you’ve been using costly creams to treat in the past.

Why do you need to consume it daily?

Vitamin B2, is water-soluble. This means it is not retained in the body for too long after it is consumed, and like other B-vitamins, it has to be replenished often through diet or supplementation (or a combination of both), in order to ensure it is maintained at a healthy level. If possible, it should be ingested daily.

What do the B-vitamins do?

Riboflavin, along with other B-vitamins, help the body in digesting the foods which you consume on a daily basis. They also help you extract energy from the foods you consume, by properly converting the nutrients in carbs, fats, and proteins, into a usable energy form for the body. This is known as ATP. If deficiencies exist, cells in our body can’t function the way they should. Our bodies rely on these vitamins to ensure proper function daily.

Foods like liver, mollusks, shellfish, seaweed, feta cheese, almonds, grass-fed beef/lamb, tempeh, organic goat cheese, and sesame seed, are also sources which are rich in Riboflavin levels. Even consuming these in smaller quantities, can help in treating a deficiency greatly.

B-vitamin functions include:

  1. Digestive functions and processing fats/carbs/proteins into ATP.
  2. Reducing inflammation.
  3. Maintaining healthy skin, eye health, and cells.
  4. Maintaining a healthy metabolic function and digestive system.
  5. Promoting nerve health, heart, and blood health in the system.
  6. Without B2, and other B-vitamins, the body simply can’t function as it should.

Where do you get Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) from naturally?

Sure, you know that supplementing or using an IV injection is a simple solution to treating a deficiency in Vitamin B2. However, there are many foods you consume daily, which are a source of Riboflavin. Some of the foods which are richest in the vitamin include: meat/organ meats, dairy products (including cheese), eggs, vegetables (namely the leafy-green variety), nuts and seeds, and legumes and beans, are foods which are high in Riboflavin levels. Fortified whole-grains, pastas, and foods which are unprocessed (say words like enriched or fortified) are typically high in the Vitamin B2 levels as well.

Of course, some people have restrictive diets, or do not consume these foods often. If this is the case, a combination of these foods, or simply consuming a supplement daily, is often sufficient in treating a deficiency in most cases. For some, an IV or shot, which is administered by your doctor, might be an alternative approach to treating a deficiency of Riboflavin.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Dosage & Deficiencies 

In most Western-cultures, a Riboflavin deficiency is not very common. For adults, the recommended daily dosage is 1.3/mg daily, and women should take 1.1/mg daily. For children, less than 1/mg daily should be sufficient in treating deficiencies.

Many who suffer from a Riboflavin deficiency complain of many common symptoms; these namely stem from the fact that without the Vitamin, the body can’t function properly. Some of the related conditions which stem from a Vitamin B2 deficiency include:

  • Anemia.
  • Migraines and headaches.
  • Eye disorders.
  • Thyroid dysfunction.
  • Other conditions might also result when a deficiency is present. Properly supplementing is an easy way to treat the underlying conditions, to remedy the deficiency, and to ensure optimal health and bodily functions are achieved, once the levels of Riboflavin are restored to their proper levels.

How to tell if you are you deficient?

So, how exactly do you know you suffer from a Riboflavin deficiency? Only a doctor or specialist can give you this information with certainty; however, if you notice certain signs or symptoms, it is probable that you are deficient. Some of the noted conditions or symptoms you will realize include:

-          Anemia.

-          Nerve damage and feeling fatigue all the time.

-          Sores or cracks on the lips/mouth.

-          Inflammation of the skin, skin disorders, namely visible around the face/nose area.

-          A sore throat, inflamed tongue and mouth area.

-          Mucus membrane swelling.

Changes in mood, such as nervousness, anxiety, or other mood swings which occur frequently and to the extremes, might also be signs of a possible deficiency. If you realize these, or other symptoms, you should discuss with your doctor of possible deficiencies, and the best methods to remedy them if they are present.

How will Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Benefit me?

So, you know that you should treat a deficiency, and that Vitamin B2 is an essential vitamin. But, what exactly does this mean? How will incorporating a supplement, or diet which is rich in Riboflavin, improve your life? Some of the benefits of ingesting Riboflavin at the recommended dosage levels include:

1.       Prevent/treat anemia

Decreased red blood cell production is one of the many linked causes which individuals who are anemic suffer from. The inability to carry oxygen to the blood and blood loss results; when Vitamin B2 is introduced, it not only helps improve functions, it can help treat cases of anemia in certain individuals. It can also help in mobilizing iron levels, which can reduce risk of developing anemia.

2.       Treat migraines/headaches

If you have ever suffered from a migraine headache, this is a welcome sign for those who are reading this. A higher dosage of 400 mg is typically prescribed for those who are taking a supplement for treating migraines. The vitamin has been proven as a natural remedy for reducing severity and frequency at which you suffer from migraines. It is also known to help decrease the severity of the symptoms, pain, and will shorten duration of time which you experience these during a migraine-episode.

3.       Boost of Energy

By metabolizing food, Vitamin B2 is naturally going to turn the foods you consume into sources of energy. Proper nerve, brain, hormone, and digestive functions will ensue. When you consume more Riboflavin, you are naturally going to have more energy levels. It is simply a source of fuel you are giving the body, which will turn the carbs, the fats, and the proteins you eat on a daily basis, into a source of fuel needed to ensure increased energy levels throughout the day.

4.       Antioxidants

Riboflavin is known to act as an antioxidant which controls presence of free radicals. This not only helps reduce levels of oxidative stress, this can help produce glutathione, which is an antioxidant, known to naturally kill free radicals. This detoxifies the liver, helps reduce the signs of aging, it helps improve the health and appearance of the skin, helps improve the digestive tract, and can help produce the higher energy levels you need to get through your day.

5.       Eye health

A deficiency is linked to possible eye problems or decrease in vision/clarity; conversely, Vitamin B2 is known to help prevent certain eye disorders. These include cataracts, keratoconus, and glaucoma. Drops are applied to treat the disorder, helping increase corneal strength. This is even more so the case when used in conjunction with light-therapies.

6.       Healthy skin/hair –

Everyone wants to look like a model; with proper levels of Riboflavin, you might not achieve model-status overnight, but your skin and hair will thank you. Smoother, younger looking skin, healthier hair follicle growth, longer and stronger hair, are all benefits you’ll instantly realize with increased levels of Riboflavin in your diet. It will help maintain the appearance of healthy skin/hair, and will help slow down the speed of aging, so you will look younger, and feel younger, regardless of what your Driver’s license says.

Side Effects & Adverse Interactions

As mentioned for nearly any other supplement, medication, or prescription you take, there is always a risk for side effects. And, since every individual is going to react differently to the composition and makeup of different supplement, there is always the potential that you will suffer certain side effects when taking Vitamin B2, or other supplements/vitamins you consume. It is best to discuss use with your doctor, before you begin a dosage cycle. Not only will they rule out any adverse or highly dangerous complications, which are linked to other medications you are taking, but can warn you of possible side effects, and what might possibly be dangerous, if you are new to taking the supplement.

Research has been conducted and indicates that people taking certain medications should not take a Riboflavin supplement. Although interactions are typically minor, they may occur and should be noted. Some of the possible medications which shouldn’t be taken alongside Vitamin B2 includes:

-          Drying medications which can affect the stomach and intestines.

-          Medications used to treat depression as they can decrease Riboflavin levels in the body.

-          Phenobarbital may react and quickly breakdown riboflavin levels.

There is always the possibility that you simply can’t take the supplement because of an adverse reaction your body experiences when consuming it. These are details your doctor will discuss with you, and inform you of, before putting you on any medication or supplement.


What to avoid 

When taking Vitamin B2, you have to choose the right supplement. You don’t want to choose anything synthetic or modified in any way. It is important to choose supplements which are made in the US and produced by a pharmacy which is FDA approved. It is best to get the prescription directly from a doctor or a specialist as well. Not only will they provide you the best supplement but will also inform you of those which are dangerous or may adversely interact with other supplements or medication which you are taking.

Is overdosing with Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Dangerous?

It is detailed in length how the supplement is water-soluble. So, even if it is taken in excess, it is not likely going to have major or significant adverse impacts on the health. Some possible complications or interactions might result in reddening of the skin, flushed skin, inflammation, itching, or diarrhea. Although this is not common in all instances, it is worth noting. And, this is typically only in instances where extremely high levels are consumed, which are well above the daily recommended limits for the supplement being taken.

If this occurs, it is best to speak to a doctor to determine if you should continue use, or modify the dosage for a period of time, to ensure the levels go down to a proper limit. With most of these cases, the symptoms are mild, and they only last as long as the vitamin is present in the bloodstream in extremely high levels.

Is it time to supplement?

Whether you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or have been informed by your doctor of a potential Riboflavin deficiency, the proper dosage and supplement is an easy and quick fix to resolving the deficiencies. So, if you are deficient, the first step is to speak to your doctor about prescribing the medication. From there, not only will they prescribe the right dosage level, but also inform you of simple foods you can add to your diet, which will not only increase the levels naturally, but will also help with other natural bodily functions that the Vitamin B2, and other B-vitamins, are responsible for in your body throughout the course of the day.

Before you supplement, consider a few of these notable conditions or symptoms, to determine possible deficiency. From there, discussing use with your doctor, and proper dosage, as well as complications or adverse reactions with other medications you are taking, would be the best steps in treating that deficiency properly, and in a timely fashion as well.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.