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Riboflavin—Why We Need This Key Nutrient

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Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, has a lot in common with its close family member Vitamin B1, or thiamine. Vitamin B2 is needed for the production of red blood cells and antibodies, and it is also required for cell respiration and growth. Like vitamin B1, vitamin B2 helps the body metabolize carbohydrates, so if you have a fondness for high-carb foods you may wish to supplement with extra riboflavin. Vitamin B2 also assists in the processing of fats and proteins.

Riboflavin is also crucial for eye health; adequate levels can help ward off eye fatigue and it has even been linked to both treating and preventing cataracts. But don’t take this as a sign that you should take a ton of extra vitamin B2 in an effort to avoid cataracts; interestingly, taking over 50 mg a day (which is a high amount) over a long period of time may actually lead to the formation of cataracts Along with vitamin A, riboflavin keeps the mucous membranes inside the digestive tract healthy and happy.

Riboflavin is particularly important during pregnancy; not getting enough can damage the developing baby. As a result, just about all brands of prenatal vitamins contain vitamin B2.

Research has found that vitamin B2 may be useful in treating a variety of health conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, and anemia (this is why some iron supplements also contain riboflavin; it helps the iron work even more effectively in the body). It can also be helpful for helping skin conditions like acne, eczema, and dermatitis. Vitamin B2 can also help boost our immune system by strengthening our reserves of antibodies, which our bodies use to fight off any invading infections. And if this wasn’t enough, when combined with vitamin B6, riboflavin may help improve carpal tunnel syndrome.

If you are deficient in vitamin B2, you may experience any of the following: cracks and sores at the corners of your mouth, inflammation of the mouth and tongue, eye problems, dermatitis, dizziness, hair loss, and slowed growth.

Like the rest of the B-vitamin family, vitamin B2 is water-soluble so it does not store up in the body but is instead eliminated throughout the day in the urine. Taking antibiotics and drinking a lot of alcohol can increase our need for the nutrient.

A lot of us get vitamin B2 through a multivitamin or B-complex supplement, but there are also plenty of food sources that contain the nutrient. Cheese, egg yolks, yogurt, milk, spinach, avocados, and broccoli all contain decent amounts of riboflavin. And if you’re a fan of Brussels sprouts you are in luck—this veggie contains a nice amount of vitamin B2 as well.


Balch and Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Third Edition, page 16


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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.