Riboflavin, lactoflavin and ovoflavin are all denominations of the well-known vitamin B2. This water-soluble vitamin plays a crucial part in the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates which are converted into energy for the body to use. Vitamin B2 is also essential for normal growth, cellular repair and fast wound healing. The nutrient contributes both to skin health and energy metabolism. A vitamin B2 deficiency can lead to a special form of anemia that causes fatigue and malaise and even birth defects. Stomatitis, chapped lips, inflammation of the corners of the mouth, light sensitivity and possibly headaches are all common symptoms of vitamin B2 deficiency.
Vitamin B2 food sources
Yogurt, soybeans, almonds, tempeh, hard boiled eggs, beef, cheddar cheese and spinach are all great sources of vitamin B2. Vitamin B2 or riboflavin is essential for good health. Although most diets nowadays provide sufficient amounts of vitamin B2, bad habits and an unhealthy lifestyle can influence riboflavin absorption or increase requirements which predisposes to a deficiency that may cause a range of unpleasant to possibly dangerous health problems. Vitamin B2 deficiency, although rare, is known to occur in most cases of alcoholism.
Vitamin B2 deficiency: causes and symptoms
Chronic liver disease associated with alcoholism as well as moderate, yet regular alcohol consumption may significantly influence carbohydrate, fats and protein metabolism and lead to poor energy production. In the presence of alcohol, vitamin B2 cannot contribute to metabolizing macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) properly in order to convert them into energy. This basically means that if you drink alcohol on a regular basis, then you will most likely feel tired or exhausted very often. Generalized weakness, mental and physical fatigue are clear signs of vitamin B2 deficiency.
A more serious riboflavin deficit can lead to anemia because the vitamin is directly involved in the production of red blood cells. The type of anemia cased by vitamin B2 deficiency is different from anemia caused by iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency in the sense that it is more difficult to identify and, often times, more serious, especially for pregnant women as it can cause birth defects.
Our skin is the first organ to exhibit symptoms of an insufficient vitamin B2 intake. While not as extensive as the symptoms of pellagra from vitamin B3 deficiency, the symptoms of a riboflavin deficit center on the mouth and corners of the mouth as well as the eyes, causing a sore, red tongue, inflammation of the corners of the mouth, even chapped lips and light sensitivity. And keep in mind that our body does not store it as well as other nutrients and we thus have to ensure we have at least a minimum daily intake to prevent a deficit from occurring.
A too high a intake of vitamin B2 from dietary sources does not cause side effects as any excess is eliminated by the kidneys. However, if you are taking dietary supplements, it’s best to avoid an excessive intake. Some dietary supplements will provide more than 100% of the RDI, or recommended daily intake of the vitamin and amounts this high are targeted at those with severe deficiency or conditions that impair absorption. The general rule is to avoid taking more than one dose in any given dietary supplement.
Vitamin B2 deficiency is responsible for a number of unpleasant skin problems. A poor intake of riboflavin (or vitamin B2) is responsible for dry, scaly and cracked skin, especially at the corners of the mouth, as well as seborrheic dermatitis causing patches of itchy, scaly, slightly inflamed red skin occurring on the scalp, around the nose, mouth, chin or chest.
Worse symptoms of vitamin B2 deficiency include a sore throat and tongue swelling. Last but not least, a deficit can have side effects for your eyesight. Symptoms include burning eyes, increased sensitivity to light or even increased risk of cataract. A severe vitamin B2 deficiency may lead to anemia and functional abnormalities of the nervous system.
What are the benefits of vitamin B2?
The nutrient is thus crucial for keeping in good health and daily needs can be easily met by including several common riboflavin-rich foods in your diet. Not only does the vitamin maintain skin health, but it can also help treat dermatitis or eczema. Even more, it works together with other nutrients to support a healthy vision, skin health and provide other benefits. As part of the B vitamin complex, it ensures the good functioning of the nervous and digestive systems.
How much vitamin B2 should you get a day?
The old recommended daily values of essential nutrients advised for adults aged 19 and higher on a 2000 kcal diet to get 1.7 mg of vitamin B2 a day, whilst the new daily values advise for 1.3 mg of vitamin B2 a day. It is important to remember that these are estimated number and that individual daily requirements may differ greatly. Stress, increased physical or mental effort, digestive conditions affecting absorption of nutrients, pregnancy, alcohol consumption, drinking coffee, green or black tea, caffeinated beverages, diarrhea and all sorts of conditions can lead to poor riboflavin absorption or increased requirements.
Vitamin B2 is a water-soluble vitamin. Any surplus will be immediately eliminated by the kidneys. Interesting fact: did you know that vitamin B2 (riboflavin) makes urine bright yellow? If you are taking riboflavin supplements or a B group complex and you notice a bright yellow color when you go to the bathroom, you needn’t worry because it’s just body getting rid of excess vitamin B2 it didn’t use.