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Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)


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:

Effective for...

  • 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.
  • Acne.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Boosting the immune system.
  • Aging.
  • 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.

How does it work?

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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.

Are there safety concerns?

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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.

Are there interactions with medications?

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Minor

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.

Phenobarbital (Luminal)
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)
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.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

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Blond psyllium
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.

Iron
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.

Are there interactions with foods?

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Food
Absorption of riboflavin supplements may be increased when taken with food.

What dose is used?

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The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:
  • 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.

Other names

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B Complex Vitamin, Complexe de Vitamines B, Flavin, Flavine, Lactoflavin, Lactoflavine, Riboflavina, Riboflavine, Vitamin B-2, Vitamin G, Vitamina B2, Vitamine B2, Vitamine G.

Methodology

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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).

References

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To see all references for the Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) page, please go to http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/957.html.

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Last reviewed - 11/14/2012




Page last updated: 01 July 2014