Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2, also called riboflavin, is a member of the vitamin B family. Your body does not produce riboflavin and it must obtain from diet. Vitamin B2 is critical for many physiologic processes such as energy production, proper vitamin B6 and folate function, and antioxidant protection.

Because it is water-soluble, the body cannot store vitamin B2 the same way it can other nutrients, such as fat soluble vitamin D. Without a way to store this vitamin for future use, the only time the body can get the health benefits of B2 is when we ingest it.

Strict vegetarians are at greater risk for deficiency given the absence of animal products in their diet.

Musculoskeletal Benefits of Vitamin B2

1. Vitamin B2 key for energy production

Vitamin B2 is necessary to metabolize the proteins, sugars, and fats that the body uses as energy sources and basic building blocks. Muscle and bone are metabolically hyper active; constantly building and breaking down. Any disruption in the building and energy processes causes a shift to an overall state of breakdown or “catabolism”. Many musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and sarcopenia can be conceptualized as a situation in which the cellular machinery that destroys overwhelms the cellular machinery that builds. Insufficient vitamin B2 can magnify and accelerate this catabolic process.

2. Vitamin B2 boosts the body's natural antioxidant defenses

Vitamin B2 is key for the optimal function of glutathione reductase. Glutathione reductase is a potent antioxidant that helps protect the body from high energy oxygen molecules call reactive oxygen species. Unrestrained cellular attack by reactive oxygen species is a known risk factor for chronic muscle, bone, joint, and tendon disease. Glutathione reductase neutralizes these free radical oxygen molecules and lessens their damaging blow.

3. Vitamin B2 helps minimize chronic inflammation

Vitamin B2 is necessary for normal functioning vitamin B6 and folate. Vitamin B6 and folate are required for the conversion of homocysteine to the key amino acids cysteine and methionine, respectively. High levels of homocysteine have been associated with oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, increased fracture risk, decreased bone mineral density, and collagen dysfunction. Oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, and collagen dysfunction are associated with chronic musculoskeletal disease. 

Selected Evidence

1. Vitamin B2 Boosts Bone Health

Korean researchers examined the association of vitamin B2 intake with osteoporosis risk. The investigators found that decreased riboflavin intake was associated with a higher risk of osteoporosis. (Kim et al. Poor Socioeconomic and Nutritional Status Are Associated with Osteoporosis in Korean Postmenopausal Women: Data from the Fourth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES) 2009. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(5):400-7.)

2. Vitamin B2 Promotes Joint Health

German researchers examined the effect of vitamin B2 on cartilage health in a rat model of osteoarthritis.The investigators found that a diet higher in B2 helped protect against osteoarthritis. The authors suggested vitamin B2 improves collagen strength indirectly via its interaction with vitamin B6. (Kurz et al. Dietary vitamins and selenium diminish the development of mechanically induced osteoarthritis and increase the expression of antioxidative enzymes in the knee joint of STR/1N mice Osteoarthritis and Cartilage (2002) 10, 119-126)

Other health benefits

There are other conditions that vitamin B2 may assist, although more research is needed and for some conditions results to date have been mixed. Those include:

  • Treating cataracts
  • Treating migraines
  • Counteracting symptoms of blood disorders
  • Treating skin conditions like acne
  • Aiding in reversing iron deficiencies
  • Digestive Health

Best Natural Sources for Vitamin B2

Most Americans get their vitamin B2 from fortified cereals. However, there are several other natural sources including nuts, organ meats, whole grain products, dairy products, and green vegetables. 

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)

The Food and Nutrition Board has developed a table of recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) of vitamin B2, based on age and gender. The values are:

  • Infants up to six months, regardless of gender: 0.3 mg
  • Babies up to one year, regardless of gender: 0.4 mg
  • Toddlers up to three years, regardless of gender: 0.5 mg
  • Children up to eight years, regardless of gender: 0.6 mg
  • Children up to 13 years, regardless of gender: 0.9 mg
  • Teen males up to 18 years: 1.3 mg
  • Teen females up to 18 years: 1 mg
  • Adult males over 19: 1.3 mg
  • Adult females over 19: 1.1 mg
  • Pregnant people: 1.4 mg
  • Lactating people: 1.6 mg

Precautions

Riboflavin from natural foods is generally well tolerated. RDA amounts can usually be obtained from a balanced, healthful diet.

Upper limits for riboflavin consumption have not been established given riboflavin's low potential for toxicity.

However, any consideration of supplementation should be discussed with a qualified health professional familiar with your unique medical history. 

References

Ashoori M, Saedisomeolia A. Riboflavin (vitamin B₂) and oxidative stress: a review. Br J Nutr. 2014 Jun 14;111(11):1985-91.

Powers HJ. Current knowledge concerning optimum nutritional status of riboflavin, niacin and pyridoxine. Proc Nutr Soc. 1999;58(2):435-440.  

McCormick DB. Two interconnected B vitamins: riboflavin and pyridoxine. Physiol Rev. 1989;69(4):1170-1198.

Madigan SM, Tracey F, McNulty H, et al. Riboflavin and vitamin B-6 intakes and status and biochemical response to riboflavin supplementation in free-living elderly people. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998;68(2):389-395.  

Jacques PF, Kalmbach R, Bagley PJ, et al. The relationship between riboflavin and plasma total homocysteine in the Framingham Offspring cohort is influenced by folate status and the C677T transition in the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene. J Nutr. 2002;132(2):283-288.

Yazdanpanah N, Uitterlinden AG, Zillikens MC, et al. Low dietary riboflavin but not folate predicts increased fracture risk in postmenopausal women homozygous for the MTHFR 677 T allele. J Bone Miner Res. 2008;23(1):86-94.

http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b2-riboflavin

http://www.nutrientsreview.com/vitamins/vitamin-b2-riboflavin.html

https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/957.html