– and many other things
Vitamin B2, also know as riboflavin, is found in different foods and in supplements containing multivitamins and strong B-vitamins. Most people are unaware that the vitamin has a host of important functions, which are especially relevant for energy levels, the nervous system, the psyche, the body’s iron metabolism, vision, skin, and lips. A study that is published in Neurology also shows that taking large amounts of vitamin B2 can help prevent migraine headaches. It appears that vitamin B2 deficiency is a common problem because of stress, ageing processes, unhealthy diets, the use of birth control pills, medicine, and certain other causes. In the following, you can read more about this exciting yet overlooked vitamin and find out how best to utilize vitamin B2 from your diet or from supplements.
Vitamin B2 was discovered in 1872 by the English chemist, Alexander Wynter. Vitamin B2 is water-soluble just like all the other B-vitamins, and because it does not get stored in the body, we humans need to get the vitamin from food or supplements on a regular basis. Vitamin B2 is primarily found in organ meat such as liver and kidneys, but you also get the vitamin from free range salmon, whole grain, dairy products, eggs, legumes, almonds, nuts, seeds, kernels, vegetables, and brewer’s yeast. It is important to know that heat (cooking, frying etc.) destroys vitamin B2, and supplements should not be exposed to light. Those at the greatest risk of a vitamin B2 deficiency are older people, alcoholics, pregnant women, and women who use birth control pills. Stress, high-level sports, unhealthy diets, and a large consumption of sugar, coffee, and other stimulants also increases your risk. The same is the case with diuretics, tetracycline, and anti-depressive medicine.
Symptoms of vitamin B2 deficiency include:
Vitamin B2 and its many advantages
Promotes heart health and cognitive functioning
Like other B-vitamins, vitamin B2 has a direct influence on the nervous system and our brain functions. Vitamin B2 is involved in the synthesis of special proteins (flavoenzymes) that are necessary for energy turnover and a number of different biochemical processes in the brain
Protects against oxidative stress, which is the underlying cause of many chronic diseases
Vitamin B2 is not an antioxidant as such, but the vitamin helps maintain levels of a particularly potent antioxidant called glutathione that counteracts oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Free radicals are aggressive molecules that attack our cells. The free radical load in the body is increased by ageing, stress, radiation, poisoning, inflammation, and medicine. Oxidative stress is the cause of many chronic ailments.
Helps prevent migraines and Parkinson’s disease
A 2014 study that is published in Neurology reveals that migraines are associated with dysfunctions in the mitochondria (powerhouses) of the brain cells. It is possible that large quantities of vitamin B2 (400 mg) can help prevent migraines by supporting cellular energy turnover and protecting the brain cells and their mitochondria against oxidative stress. Another study from 2017, which is published in Frontiers in Neurology, reveals that supplementing with large doses of vitamin B2 (30 mg every eight hours) helps Parkinson’s patients and represents a potential therapy in combination with standard treatment. This is because vitamin B2 is important for the nervous system and also serves as an antioxidant.
Helps reduce the tendency to depression
It turns out that many people with depression lack vitamin B2, which is essential for energy levels, the nervous system, and the brain.
Supports a healthy cardiovascular system
Vitamin B2 is important for regulating levels of the amino acid, homocysteine. Science believes that elevated levels of homocysteine increases the risk of blood clots. Vitamin B2 helps counteract oxidative stress, which can result in atherosclerosis.
Supports healthy vision
Oxidative stress in the eyes caused by ageing processes, light exposure, and other factors, is one of the leading causes of cataracts. A study showed that people who lack vitamin B2 are twice as likely to develop this disease.
Supports the iron metabolism
Vitamin B2 is important for the metabolism of iron, which helps regulate the oxygen-transporting hemoglobin of the red blood cells. An English study demonstrates that women who lack vitamin B2 and have low hemoglobin levels can optimize their hemoglobin levels by supplementing with the vitamin.
Requirements and supplementation
The reference intake level (RI) for vitamin B2 is 1.4 mg for adults and 1.6-1.7 mg for pregnant/lactating women. Multivitamins normally provide enough vitamin B2 to cover this, whereas strong B-vitamin supplements can easily contain 20-100 mg. The reason for this is that many people have difficulty with absorbing and utilizing the vitamin. Because vitamin B2 is water-soluble it is best to split your supplementation in several daily dosages in order to benefit the most from the nutrient. Supplements of vitamin B2 should normally be combined with the other B-vitamins and should not be taken together with antacids. When ingesting high quantities of vitamin B2, your urine may contract a strong yellow color, but it is completely harmless. Extreme dosages may cause itching, numbness, light sensitivity, and a tingling sensation.
Did you know that vitamin B2 is also used as a yellow coloring agent/food additive in a number of different food items?
Eyad T Marashly and Saeed Bohlega. Riboflavin Has Neuroprotective potential: Focus on Parkinson´s Disease and Migraine. Frontiers in Neurology. 2017
Schonen J et al. Effectiveness of high-dose riboflavin in migraine prophylaxis. A randomized controlled trial. Neurology 1998
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