What is it?
Riboflavin is a B vitamin. It can be found in certain foods such as milk, meat, eggs, nuts, enriched flour, and green vegetables. Riboflavin is frequently used in combination with other B vitamins in vitamin B complex products. Vitamin B complex generally includes vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin/niacinamide), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin), and folic acid. However, some products do not contain all of these ingredients and some may include others, such as biotin, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), choline bitartrate, and inositol.
Riboflavin is used for preventing low levels of riboflavin (riboflavin deficiency), cervical cancer, and migraine headaches. It is also used for treating riboflavin deficiency, acne, muscle cramps, burning feet syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, and blood disorders such as congenital methemoglobinemia and red blood cell aplasia. Some people use riboflavin for eye conditions including eye fatigue, cataracts, and glaucoma.
Other uses include increasing energy levels; boosting immune system function; maintaining healthy hair, skin, mucous membranes, and nails; slowing aging; boosting athletic performance; promoting healthy reproductive function; canker sores; memory loss, including Alzheimer's disease; ulcers; burns; alcoholism; liver disease; sickle cell anemia; and treating lactic acidosis brought on by treatment with a class of AIDS medications called NRTI drugs.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2) are as follows:
- Preventing and treating riboflavin deficiency and conditions related to riboflavin deficiency.
Possibly effective for...
- Preventing migraine headaches. Taking high-dose riboflavin (400 mg/day) seems to significantly reduce the number of migraine headache attacks. However, taking riboflavin does not appear to reduce the amount of pain or the amount of time a migraine headache lasts.
- Preventing cataracts, an eye disorder.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Lactic acidosis (a serious blood-acid imbalance) in people with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). There is preliminary clinical evidence that riboflavin may be useful for treating lactic acidosis in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) caused by drugs called nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI).
- Preventing cervical cancer. There is evidence that increasing riboflavin intake from dietary and supplement sources, along with thiamine, folic acid, and vitamin B12, might decrease the risk of developing precancerous spots on the cervix.
- Muscle cramps.
- Boosting the immune system.
- Maintaining healthy skin and hair.
- Canker sores.
- Memory loss including Alzheimer's disease.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of riboflavin for these uses.
Riboflavin is required for the proper development and function of the skin, lining of the digestive tract, blood cells, and many other parts of the body.
Riboflavin is LIKELY SAFE for most people. In some people, riboflavin can cause the urine to turn a yellow-orange color. When taken in high doses, riboflavin might cause diarrhea, an increase in urine, and other side effects.
Special precautions & warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Riboflavin is LIKELY SAFE for pregnant or breast-feeding women when taken in the amounts recommended. The recommended amounts are 1.4 mg per day for pregnant women and 1.6 mg per day in breast-feeding women. Not enough is known about the safety of taking larger doses during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
Be watchful with this combination.
Drying medications (Anticholinergic drugs)
Some drying medications can affect the stomach and intestines. Taking these drying medications with riboflavin (vitamin B2) can increase the amount of riboflavin that is absorbed in the body. But it's not known if this interaction is important.
Medications for depression (Tricyclic antidepressants)
Some medications for depression can decrease the amount of riboflavin in the body. This interaction is not a big concern because it only occurs with very large amounts of some medications for depression.
Riboflavin is broken down by the body. Phenobarbital might increase how quickly riboflavin is broken down in the body. It is not clear if this interaction is significant.
Probenecid (Benemid) can increase how much riboflavin is in the body. This might cause there to be too much riboflavin in the body. But it's not known if this interaction is a big concern.
Psyllium reduces absorption of riboflavin from supplements in healthy women. It isn't clear whether this occurs with dietary riboflavin, or whether it's really important to health.
Riboflavin supplements may improve the way iron supplements work in some people who don't have enough iron. This effect is probably important only in people with riboflavin deficiency.
Absorption of riboflavin supplements may be increased when taken with food.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For treating low levels of riboflavin (riboflavin deficiency) in adults: 5-30 mg of riboflavin (Vitamin B2) daily in divided doses.
- For preventing migraine headaches: 400 mg of riboflavin (Vitamin B2) per day. It may take up to three months to get best results.
- For preventing cataracts: a daily dietary intake of approximately 2.6 mg of riboflavin (Vitamin B2) has been used. A combination of 3 mg of riboflavin (Vitamin B2) plus 40 mg of niacin daily has also been used.
- The daily recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) of riboflavin (Vitamin B2) are: Infants 0-6 months, 0.3 mg; infants 7-12 months, 0.4 mg; children 1-3 years, 0.5 mg; children 4-8 years, 0.6 mg; children 9-13 years, 0.9 mg; men 14 years or older, 1.3 mg; women 14-18 years, 1 mg; women over 18 years, 1.1 mg; pregnant women, 1.4 mg; and breastfeeding women, 1.6 mg.
B Complex Vitamin, Complexe de Vitamines B, Flavin, Flavine, Lactoflavin, Lactoflavine, Riboflavina, Riboflavine, Vitamin B-2, Vitamin G, Vitamina B2, Vitamine B2, Vitamine G.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.methodology (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/methodology.html).
To see all references for the Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) page, please go to http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/957.html.
- Jacques PF, Taylor A, Moeller S, et al. Long-term nutrient intake and 5-year change in nuclear lens opacities. Arch Ophthalmol 2005;123:517-26.
- Maizels M, Blumenfeld A, Burchette R. A combination of riboflavin, magnesium, and feverfew for migraine prophylaxis: a randomized trial. Headache 2004;44:885-90.
- Boehnke C, Reuter U, Flach U, et al. High-dose riboflavin treatment is efficacious in migraine prophylaxis: an open study in a tertiary care centre. Eur J Neurol 2004;11:475-7.
- Hernandez BY, McDuffie K, Wilkens LR, et al. Diet and premalignant lesions of the cervix: evidence of a protective role for folate, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin B12. Cancer Causes Control 2003;14:859-70.
- Skalka HW, Prchal JT. Cataracts and riboflavin deficiency. Am J Clin Nutr 1981;34:861-3.
- Vir SC, Love AH. Riboflavin nutriture of oral contraceptive users. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 1979;49:286-90.
- Hamajima S, Ono S, Hirano H, Obara K. Induction of the FAD synthetase system in rat liver by phenobarbital administration. Int J Vit Nutr Res 1979;49:59-63.
- Ohkawa H, Ohishi N, Yagi K. Hydroxylation of the 7- and 8-methyl groups of riboflavin by the microsomal electron transfer system of rat liver. J Biol Chem 1983;258:5629-33.
- Pinto J, Huang YP, Pelliccione N, Rivlin RS. Adriamycin inhibits flavin synthesis in heart: possible relation to cardiotoxicity of anthracyclines (abstract). Clin Res 1983;31;467A.
- Raiczyk GB, Pinto J. Inhibition of flavin metabolism by adriamycin in skeletal muscle. Biochem Pharmacol 1988;37:1741-4.
Ogura R, Ueta H, Hino Y, et al. Riboflavin deficiency caused by treatment with adriamycin. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol 1991;37:473-7.
- Lewis CM, King JC. Effect of oral contraceptive agents on thiamin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid status in young women. Am J Clin Nutr 1980;33:832-8.
- Roe DA, Bogusz S, Sheu J, et al. Factors affecting riboflavin requirements of oral contraceptive users and non-users. Am J Clin Nutr 1982;35:495-501.
- Newman LJ, Lopez R, Cole HS, et al. Riboflavin deficiency in women taking oral contraceptive agents. Am J Clin Nutr 1978;31:247-9.
- Briggs M. Oral contraceptives and vitamin nutrition (letter). Lancet 1974;1:1234-5.
- Ahmed F, Bamji MS, Iyengar L. Effect of oral contraceptive agents on vitamin nutrition status. Am J Clin Nutr 1975;28:606-15.
- Dutta P, Pinto J, Rivlin R. Antimalarial effects of riboflavin deficiency. Lancet 1985;2:1040-3.
- Raiczyk GB, Dutta P, Pinto J. Chlorpromazine and quinacrine inhibit flavin adenine dinucleotide biosynthesis in skeletal muscle. Physiologist 1985;28:322.
- Pelliccione N, Pinto J, Huang YP, Rivlin RS. Accelerated development of riboflavin deficiency by treatment with chlorpromazine. Biochem Pharmacol 1983;32:2949-53.
- Pinto J, Huang YP, Pelliccione N, Rivlin RS. Cardiac sensitivity to the inhibitory effects of chlorpromazine, imipramine, and amitriptyline upon formation of flavins. Biochem Pharmacol 1982;31:3495-9.
- Pinto J, Huang YP, Rivlin RS. Inhibition of riboflavin metabolism in rat tissues by chlorpromazine, imipramine and amitriptyline. J Clin Invest 1981;67:1500-6.
- Jusko WJ, Levy G, Yaffe SJ, Gorodischer R. Effect of probenecid on renal clearance of riboflavin in man.J Pharm Sci 1970;59:473-7.
- Jusko WJ, Levy G. Effect of probenecid on riboflavin absorption and excretion in man. J Pharm Sci 1967;56:1145-9.
- Yanagawa N, Shih RN, Jo OD, Said HM. Riboflavin transport by isolated perfused rabbit renal proximal tubules. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol 2000;279:C1782-6.
- Grundhofer B, Gibaldi M. Biopharmaceutic factors that influence effects of anticholinergic drugs: comparison of propantheline, hexocyclium, and isopropamide. J Pharm Sci 1977;66:1433-5.
- Levy G, Gibaldi M, Procknal JA. Effect of an anticholinergic agent on riboflavin absorption in man. J Pharm Sci 1972;61:798-9.
- Dalton SD, Rahimi AR. Emerging role of riboflavin in the treatment of nucleoside analogue-induced type B lactic acidosis. AIDS Patient Care STDS 2001;15:611-4.
- Roe DA, Kalkwarf H, Stevens J. Effect of fiber supplements on the apparent absorption of pharmacological doses of riboflavin. J Am Diet Assoc 1988;88:211-3.
- Pinto J, Raiczyk GB, Huang YP, Rivlin RS. New approaches to the possible prevention of side effects of chemotherapy by nutrition. Cancer 1986;58:1911-4.
- McCormick DB. Riboflavin. In: Shils ME, Olson JA, Shike M, Ross AC, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 9th ed. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1999. pg.391-9.
- Fishman SM, Christian P, West KP. The role of vitamins in the prevention and control of anaemia. Public Health Nutr 2000;3:125-50.
- Tyrer LB. Nutrition and the pill. J Reprod Med 1984;29:547-50.
- Mooij PN, Thomas CM, Doesburg WH, Eskes TK. Multivitamin supplementation in oral contraceptive users. Contraception 1991;44:277-88.
- Cumming RG, Mitchell P, Smith W. Diet and cataract: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Ophthalmology 2000;10:450-6.
- Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline . Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000. Available at: http://books.nap.edu/books/0309065542/html/.
- Kulkarni PM, Schuman PC, Merlino NS, Kinzie JL. Lactic acidosis and hepatic steatosis in HIV seropositive patients treated with nucleoside analogues. Natl AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project. Dig Disease Week Liver Conf, San Diego,CA. 2000;May 21-4:Rep11.
- Sperduto RD, Hu TS, Milton RC, et al. The Linxian cataract studies. Two nutrition intervention trials. Arch Ophthalmol 1993;111:1246-53.
- Sanpitak N, Chayutimonkul L. Oral contraceptives and riboflavin nutrition. Lancet 1974;1:836-7.
- Hill MJ. Intestinal flora and endogenous vitamin synthesis. Eur J Cancer Prev 1997;6:S43-5.
- Yates AA, Schlicker SA, Suitor CW. Dietary reference intakes: The new basis for recommendations for calcium and related nutrients, B vitamins, and choline. J Am Diet Assoc 1998;98:699-706.
- Kastrup EK. Drug Facts and Comparisons. 1998 ed. St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons, 1998.
- Fouty B, Frerman F, Reves R. Riboflavin to treat nucleoside analogue-induced lactic acidosis. Lancet 1998;352:291-2.
- Schoenen J, Jacquy J, Lenaerts M. Effectiveness of high-dose riboflavin in migraine prophylaxis. A randomized controlled trial. Neurology 1998;50:466-70.
- Schoenen J, Lenaerts M, Bastings E. High-dose riboflavin as a prophylactic treatment of migraine: results of an open pilot study. Cephalalgia 1994;14:328-9.
- Sandor PS, Afra J, Ambrosini A, Schoenen J. Prophylactic treatment of migraine with beta-blockers and riboflavin: differential effects on the intensity dependence of auditory evoked cortical potentials. Headache 2000;40:30-5.
- Kunsman GW, Levine B, Smith ML. Vitamin B2 interference with TDx drugs-of-abuse assays. J Forensic Sci 1998;43:1225-7.
- Hardman JG, Limbird LL, Molinoff PB, eds. Goodman and Gillman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 9th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1996.
- Young DS. Effects of Drugs on Clinical Laboratory Tests 4th ed. Washington: AACC Press, 1995.
- McKevoy GK, ed. AHFS Drug Information. Bethesda, MD: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 1998.
- Show more references
- Show fewer references
Last reviewed - 11/14/2012
This copyrighted, evidence-based medicine resource is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database disclaims any responsibility related to consequences of using any product. This monograph should not replace advice from a healthcare professional and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.
Copyright © 1995 - 2013 Therapeutic Research Faculty
, publishers of Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database
, Prescriber’s Letter
, Pharmacist’s Letter
. All rights reserved. For scientific data on natural medicines, professionals may consult the Professional Version of Natural Medicines Comprehensive DatabaseNatural Medicines Comprehensive Database (http://www.naturaldatabase.com/)