Supplements: Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

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Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, enables carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to release energy. Riboflavin is needed for normal reproduction, growth, and repair of skin, hair, nails, and joints. It is also important to the immune system, which protects your body against disease.


Here is a partial list of the illnesses that riboflavin helps prevent, and those that it helps to treat.

  • Migraine headache.
  • Riboflavin may help prevent migraine headaches.
  • Studies have suggested that supplementation with riboflavin is more effective than aspirin in preventing these severe headaches.
  • Cataracts. Riboflavin deficiency may cause cataracts. Riboflavin is vital to the activity of an enzyme that protects your eyes. Riboflavin deficiency is fairly common in older people. Before taking more than the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for riboflavin to prevent cataracts, speak to your health care provider.
  • Riboflavin supplements may help in the treatment of sickle cell anemia. It may also enhance the effectiveness of iron supplements in the treatment of anemia.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Too little riboflavin in your diet may put you at risk for rheumatoid arthritis. Supplementation with riboflavin may help improve your symptoms.

Riboflavin is also helpful in the following ways.

May relieve symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome Reduces the effects of stress Skin problems such as acne (especially acne rosacea), dermatitis, eczema, and ulcers may improve with riboflavin supplementation May improve muscle cramps May protect against certain types of cell damage that occur during a heart attack or stroke Enhances immune function

Dietary Sources

The best sources of riboflavin include brewer's yeast, almonds, organ meats, whole grains, wheat germ, wild rice, mushrooms, soybeans, milk, and spinach.

Riboflavin is added to flours and cereals. Riboflavin is destroyed by light and alkalis such as baking soda. It is not destroyed by heat, although it will leach into cooking water. Foods should be stored away from light to help retain their riboflavin content.

Other Forms

Riboflavin supplements are available in two forms: simple or activated. It is also found in multivitamin preparations and in B-complex vitamins, in 25-, 50-, and 100-mg tablets.

How to Take It

Recommended dietary allowances for riboflavin are listed below.

  • Children 1 to 3 years: 0.5 mg/day
  • Children 4 to 8 years: 0.6 mg/day
  • Children 9 to 13 years: 0.9 mg/day
  • Men 14 years and older: 1.3 mg/day
  • Women 14 to 19 years: 1.0 mg/day
  • Women during pregnancy: 1.4 mg/day
  • Women during lactation: 1.6 mg/day

As with all medicines, check with a health care provider before giving riboflavin to a child.


Riboflavin toxicity is rare. Possible reactions to high doses include itching, numbness, burning or prickling sensations, and sensitivity to light. High doses of riboflavin can affect urinalysis test results.

Possible Interactions

Sulfa drugs, antimalaria drugs, estrogen, cathartic agents, and alcohol can interfere with the effectiveness of riboflavin. In high doses, riboflavin may reduce the effectiveness of the anticancer drug methotrexate. Riboflavin's effects may be decreased by long-term use of barbiturates. Certain liver diseases can affect how well riboflavin works. Riboflavin is needed to activate vitamin B6.

For more information on riboflavin, check with your health care provider.

This document contains information relating to general principles of medical care that should not in any event be construed as specific instructions for individual patients. The reader is advised to check product information (including package inserts) for changes and new information regarding dosage, precautions, and contraindications before administering any drug. No claim or endorsements are made for any drug or compound currently in investigative use. No responsibility is assumed by the publisher for any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions, or ideas contained in any material herein.

This web site is intended for your own informational purposes only. No person or entity associated with this web site purports to be engaging in the practice of medicine through this medium. The information you receive is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other health care professional. If you have an illness or medical problem, contact your health care provider. You should consult your health care provider with any questions about the nature or effect of products you purchase here. Be sure to read all directions, warnings and other information accompanying any product before using it.

Dietary supplements are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease or illness, and the information regarding these products has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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Previously Published in OSA Today Reproduced by permission

Updated on: 03/10/16
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Vitamin B2
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Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2 (also known as riboflavin) may help prevent and may be used to treat migraine headaches, cataracts, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain skin disorders such as acne (acne rosacea), dermatitis, and eczema.
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