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Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

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Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients required by our body. Vitamins are divided into fat and water-soluble vitamins for the proper maintenance and regulation of metabolic pathways. Vitamins are not readily produced in the human body so they are required in the appropriate amount on daily basis through dietary sources. In this guide, we will discuss vitamin B2, its sources and risk factors behind its deficiency, and its benefits for the human body.

What is Vitamin B2?

Vitamin B2, also known as Riboflavin, the active form of which is found in food products and in certain dietary supplements. It is among one of those “8 B” vitamins which are found in the body, which work in order to convert the food (Carbohydrates) into fuel (Glucose) so that the amount of energy needed for a person to do daily activities can be completed by the body.

Vitamin B2 is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin, and plays an essential role in metabolizing the body fat and proteins. The most amount of this vitamin is not usually stored in the body, and has to be utilized immediately, so the excessive vitamin is excreted from the body in the form of urine. Also, presence of excessive riboflavin in the body causes the color of the urine to turn dark yellow.

Benefits of vitamin B2

Vitamins are essential products for our health. Our body needs different vitamins properly so that it can do its work good. One of the many benefits of having vitamin b2 in the body is that it helps the body to turn the food into energy. Some other benefits of vitamin b2 are listed below:

  1. Helpful for proper growth

Vitamin B2 is helpful for proper growth and maintaining the overall good health of a person. Vitamin B2 known as riboflavin is required for the proper breakdown of macronutrients including carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for energy production. It is required in the development and functioning of skin cells. Riboflavin is required during the production of the lining of digestive tract, blood cells, and other organs in the body.

  1. Good for eye health

Vitamin B2 is important for maintaining eye health. It is a necessary component that protects the antioxidant glutathione in the eye, The National Library of Medicine claims that a diet rich in riboflavin lowers the risk of development of eye disorders like cataracts. Supplementation is helpful in this aspect to compensate for the needs of riboflavin.

  1. Helpful for absorption of other vitamins

Riboflavin is required for maintaining certain levels of other vitamins, minerals and chemicals in our bloodstream. Riboflavin is required for the conversion of vitamin B6 and Vitamin B9 in the body for proper usage. Vitamin B2 is necessary for the proper usage and processing of iron in the body. Without its proper usage, body is more prone to development of anemia. Riboflavin also reduced the levels of homocysteine in the blood.

Deficiency of Vitamin B2

When the needs of the body are not fulfilled from the dietary sources, various signs are symptoms are shown by the body. These specific signs and symptoms indicate the deficiency of nutrients and can be fulfilled through diet and supplements. Some of the signs and symptoms that indicate a vitamin B2 riboflavin deficiency are:

  • Cracks at the corners of the mouth known as angular cheilitis
  • Dry mouth and cracked lips
  • Dry skin
  • Inflammation of the tongue and lining of the mouth
  • Red lips and sore throat
  • Accumulation of fluids in the mucous membranes
  • Iron-deficiency anemia

Causes of vitamin B2 deficiency

There are various causes behind the deficiency of vitamin B2. Some of them are enlisted below:

  1. Poor nutrition

Lack of nutrients and inappropriate dietary sources in daily routine can lead to the deficiency of vitamins, especially vitamin B2. Vitamin B2 is mostly present in the food sources from meat group, dairy and dairy products, and fortified food products enriched with vitamin B2.

  1. Chronic disorders

There are various chronic and metabolic disorders that can lead to the deficiency of nutrients due to various factors. The intake of medicines according to the metabolic disease can lead to drug-nutrient interaction and hinders the absorption of vitamins in the body.

  1. Malabsorption

The malabsorption of food and nutrients in the body can lead to the cause of vitamin B2 deficiency. Malabsorption can be due to many problems like liver and kidney disease. Excessive intake of alcohol is also responsible for lower absorption of nutrients in the body. Blood filtration processes like hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis are also a hindrance to the absorption of nutrients.

Risk factors of vitamin B2 deficiency

The deficiency of vitamin B2 can be seen due to numerous factors including alcoholism, poor diet, liver and kidney disorders, age factors, and chronic illness. Here we will discuss some major groups of people who are more prone to vitamin B2 deficiency:

  1. Vegetarian athletes

Athletes who are involved in hard and strenuous exercises require extra vitamins and nutrients to meet their needs of the body. During exercise, all the stored nutrients especially riboflavin are used up. Additional riboflavin is required to avoid the deficiency. The deficiency of riboflavin is common in vegetarian athletes as the major dietary source of riboflavin is animal-based protein sources.

  1. Pregnant and lactating mothers

Pregnant and lactating mothers who are already malnourished are more prone to deficiency of vitamins, especially B2. Pregnant women who do not consume enough dietary sources of animal-based proteins like beef or chicken have a higher risk of vitamin B2 deficiency. This can place birth defects in the infants and have disastrous consequences during the lactation period.

  1. Vegetarians

Vegetarians are more prone to deficiency of vitamin B2 as these people avoid consuming meat and meat-based products. Meat is the best source of riboflavin having a substantial amount in it. Vegetarians rely on vegetables and plant-based sources of food for their meals. Plant-based products are not that loaded with vitamin B2 so vegetarians can face its deficiency.

  1. Riboflavin transport deficiency

Riboflavin transport deficiency is a neurological disorder that can occur between infancy and young adulthood. A person faces respiratory and hearing difficulties due to this disease. There is a genetic mutation of riboflavin transporters in which a person is not able to absorb or transport the riboflavin thus leading to its deficiency. A person suffering from such a problem should follow a proper diet comprising the food sources of vitamin B2 to avoid serious symptoms.

Side effects of Vitamin B2 deficiency and consequences of long-term deficiency

Long-term deficiency of vitamin B2 can lead to serious heart issues, brain disorders, and some cancers too. There are no special side effects of vitamin B2 consumption but its long-term deficiency can be fatal. A person has a higher chance of migraines and cardiovascular diseases. The amount of vitamin B2 consumption should be kept according to the RDA per person as it can result in toxicity. The GI tract of human beings is capable to absorb the nutrients up to a specific limit.

How much Vitamin B2 is required?

This is a common question that is often asked by concerned parents whether the vitamin is safe for their kids to ingest or not. The answer to this is, yes, vitamin b2 is good for kids without a doubt. The reason for this is that vitamin b2 is usually found in a lot of food items that are given to children as a healthy diet in routine. Also, because of the reason that vitamin b2 is an important ingredient for the making of red blood cells in children. So the more amount of vitamin b2 is absorbed by the children, the higher would be the number of red blood cells in them.

According to the National Library of Medicine, the recommended dietary amount (RDA) of vitamin B2 in different age groups is as follows:

  • Infants up to age group 1-3 years need 0.5 mg per day
  • Children up to age of 4-8 years need 0.6 mg per day
  • Teenagers (boys) up to age of 9-13 years need 0.9 mg per day
  • Teenagers (boys) up to age of 14-18 years need 1.3 mg per day
  • Teenagers (girls) up to age of 9-13 years need 0.9 mg per day
  • Teenagers (girls) up to age of 14-18 years need 1.0 mg per day
  • Adults (men) up to age of 19-70 years need 1.3 mg per day
  • Adults (women) up to age of 19-70 years need 1.1 mg per day
  • Older adults (men) up to age of more than 70 years need 1.3 mg per day
  • Older adults (women) up to age of more than 70 years need 1.1 mg per day

Sources of vitamin B2

Vitamin B2 called riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin that is flushed out daily from the body either in the form of urine, sweat, or through other secretory glands. There are various food sources through which this vitamin can be ingested. Some of the main dietary sources of vitamin B2 are as follows:

  • Eggs and animal-based protein sources like chicken, beef, and organ meats
  • Vegetables like Brussel sprouts, broccoli, mushrooms, and leafy green vegetables
  • Vitamin-enriched bread and cereals including wheat germ
  • Nuts, molasses, and wild rice
  • Legumes and beans like lima beans, peas, and navy beans
  1. Protein sources

The plant and animal-based protein sources are full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Vitamin B2 is available in appropriate amounts in animal-based protein sources like beef, chicken, and organ meats including liver and kidney. The amino acid tryptophan is converted to amino acids through the help of vitamin B2 and is available in animal-based protein sources. Eggs that are a good source of proteins are also enriched with vitamin B2.

  1. Vitamin-enriched bread and cereals

Bread and cereals from whole grain sources are full of nutrients, dietary fiber, and minerals. There are various fortified cereals and bread available in the market that are enriched with vitamin B2 to fulfill the needs of the population through dietary sources instead of supplementation.

  1. Vegetables

Green-leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and cabbage are packed with essential nutrients and vitamins. Spinach is one of the best sources of iron and water-soluble vitamins. Other than this, mushrooms, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts are also an excellent source of vegetables providing vitamin B2 to the body.

  1. Legumes and beans

Legumes and beans being the plant sources of proteins are also packed with excellent nutrients to fulfill the demands of the body. Lima beans, pinto beans, and peas are excellent dietary sources of water-soluble vitamins and dietary fiber.

Dn.Zainab Naeem is Hosting and Content Writing Head of SDNO. She is a freelance nutritionist and writer, and also a self-taught calligrapher, artist and chef.  She can be reached at @xayni_de_artista.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended as sound medical advice for your particular illness; rather, it is meant to increase awareness of common health issues. Before implementing any recommendations made in this article or choosing a treatment plan based on its contents, you should always speak with a qualified healthcare professional.

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