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Vitamin B2

Alternate Names

  • riboflavin

Definition

Riboflavin, also called Vitamin B2, is a water-soluble vitamin. It is one of the eight B vitamins. The B vitamin complex includes vitamins B1, niacin, B6, B12, folate, biotin, and pantothenic acid.

What food source is the nutrient found in?

Good sources of riboflavin include:
  • milk and dairy products
  • meat and eggs
  • leafy, dark green vegetables
  • whole-grain or enriched breads and cereals
  • organ meats such as liver, kidney, and heart
In the United States, milk products supply about half of the riboflavin that people get. Ultraviolet light, such as sunlight, destroys riboflavin. This is why milk is stored in opaque plastic or cardboard containers. Unlike other vitamins, riboflavin is not destroyed by cooking.
However, when grains are milled, or refined, most of the riboflavin and other nutrients are removed. This makes whole-grain foods, such as oatmeal and whole wheat, better choices. Enriched refined foods are also healthy choices because the riboflavin lost in refining has been added back in. Refined - but non-enriched foods, such as white rice, do not supply riboflavin in any significant amount. The content of riboflavin in some common foods is as follows:
  • 1 cup of milk = 0.4 milligram (mg)
  • 1 cup of cottage cheese = 0.37 mg
  • 1 cup of yogurt = 1.6 mg
  • 3-ounce pork chop = 0.24 mg
  • 3 ounces of beef liver, braised = 3.5 mg

How does the nutrient affect the body?

Riboflavin helps keep the body healthy in a number of ways, including the following:
  • It helps to convert food into energy.
  • It is also needed to convert an amino acid called tryptophan into niacin.
  • It works closely with other B vitamins.
  • It helps make red blood cells and it keeps body tissues healthy, especially the skin and eyes.
  • It is key to healthy growth and development.
  • It helps the body make and control certain hormones.
The recommended daily allowances, called RDAs, for this nutrient are:
  • adult men from age 19 to 50: 1.7 milligrams (mg)
  • men older than age 50: 1.4 mg
  • adult women from age 19 to 50: 1.3 mg
  • women older than age 50: 1.2 mg
  • pregnant women: 1.6 mg
  • breastfeeding women: 1.8 mg during the first six months and 1.7 mg the next six months after the baby's birth
Several servings per day of riboflavin-rich foods are needed to meet requirements. Because riboflavin is found in so many foods, a balanced diet will usually provide enough.

Information

Because riboflavin is so key to health, a shortage in the diet can cause problems. Severe riboflavin deficiency with clinical symptoms is rare. Mild deficiencies are more common, especially with elderly people and individuals with anorexia nervosa.
Strict vegans, who eat no meat or dairy products,have riboflavin deficiencies. Symptoms can include:
  • dry and scaly skin, especially on the face
  • cracks at the corners of the mouth
  • eye disorders
  • swollen tongue or gums
Children who do not get enough riboflavin over a long period of time can have poor growth. Vitamin supplements usually reverse symptoms within a few days to a few weeks.
It is not possible to be poisoned by too much riboflavin. Because it is a water-soluble vitamin, any extra is passed in the urine.

Sources

Somer, E., MA, RD.&Health Media of America. (1995). The Essential Guide To Vitamins and Minerals (2nd ed.). New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Duyff, R., MS, RD, CFCS. (1996). The American Dietetic Association's Complete Food&Nutrition Guide. Minnesota: Chronimed Publishing.

Escott-Stump, S., MA, RD. (1997). Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care. Fourth Ed. William and Wilkins.

Anderson, J., MS, Deskins, B., PhD, RD. (1995). The Nutrition Bible. William Morrow and Co., Inc.

Farley, D. (1996). More People Trying Vegetarian Diets. FDA Consumer. US Food and Drug Administration.

Madigan, S.M., et al. (1998). Riboflavin and vitamin B-6 intakes and status and biochemical response to riboflavin supplementation in free-living elderly people. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 68, 389-395.

Callinice, D., et al. (1999). Riboflavin and riboflavin- derived cofactors in adolescent girls with anorexia nervosa. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 69, 4: 672-678.

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