Vitamin B2 well known as Riboflavin is one of the eight essential water-soluble vitamins. It plays a crucial role in the body and is needed for the healthy functioning of the eyes, ear, skin and red blood cells.

It is usually present in plant and dairy products and has to be consumed regularly as being a water-soluble nutrient, the body does not store much of it. Vitamin B2 is frequently used along with other forms of vitamin B. It plays a key role in the development and bodily functions including the brain, blood cells, skin and lining of the digestive tract.

Vitamin B2 got named as riboflavin owing to its natural colour as the term, ‘flavin’ in riboflavin comes from ‘flavus’, the Latin word for yellow. Unlike any other vitamin, one can usually understand the amount of vitamin B2 reserved in the body by seeing the colour of urine since it naturally turns bright yellow.

Vitamin B2 Sources

This heat-stable form of the B vitamin was discovered in 1920, isolated in 1933, and first made in the year 1935. It is also listed as one of the safest and effective medicines in the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines.

Function

Vitamin B2 or riboflavin plays an integral part in the conversion of energy for various bodily activities. It also takes part in the conversion of the various other B vitamins into forms which is acceptable by the body.

The B2 vitamin is also essential for the electron transport chain that produces cellular energy and in turn, facilitates the processing of amino acids and fats. It can also serve as an antioxidant, which slows the pace of aging.

Vitamin B2 plays an important role in improving vision and treating disorders like keratoconus and different types of eye conditions including cataracts, eye fatigue, and glaucoma. Regular intake of vitamin B2 reduces the risk of getting infected with cancer. It also treats different types of headaches and migraines and their underlying causes.

It is also used to treat acne, burning feet disorder, carpal tunnel syndrome, and muscle cramps. Oral doses of riboflavin are also given when a person is suffering from severe blood disorders like methemoglobinemia and red blood cell aplasia.

Being a natural antioxidant, it is also used to treat free radical damage due to harmful UV-rays. It helps to unclog facial pores, increase blood circulation and prevent acne, pimples and facial pustules. It also helps in reducing the various signs of aging like wrinkles, fine lines and age spots. Apart from skincare, it also imparts healthy, shiny hair and nails.

Several kinds of research strongly advocate the use of this water-soluble vitamin for the treatment of memory loss such as Alzheimer's disease, canker sores, burns, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, liver disease, and sickle cell anaemia. It also plays a key role in repairing tissues and healing wounds.

Including the B2 vitamin in your diet considerably reduces the risks of getting infected with infections like malaria and dengue. Pregnant women are often advised to increase the intake of food sources containing the B2 vitamin as it reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.

Intake of vitamin B2 improves the cognitive functioning of the brain, promotes liver and bone health, and helps in treating cardiovascular diseases, auto-immune diseases, nightly leg cramps, etc. It is also equally essential for enhancing digestion and preventing constipation. Regular consumption of vitamin B2 increases the absorption of essential minerals such as folic acid and iron and vitamins from the food.

Food Sources

Riboflavin is extremely essential for its host of health benefits. Being a water-soluble vitamin, it is carried through the bloodstream and gets easily eliminated from the body via urine, hence one must always keep up the intake of natural foods containing riboflavin to alleviate deficiency syndromes. Although most of the vitamin B2 comes from milk and other dairy products, the markets are also flooded with other dietary items rich in this vitamin.

The most prominent sources of vitamin B2 are:

Milk, cheese and other dairy products

Vegetables include beans, broccoli, mushrooms, avocados, dried peas, Brussels sprouts, soybeans, sea vegetables, green peas, bell peppers, sweet potato, and dark green leafy vegetables, such as asparagus, collard greens, turnip green, mustard green, celery, romaine lettuce, and spinach

Fresh fruits include grapes.

Seeds and grains include millet, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, wild rice, whole grains, wild rice

Fortified foods include bread, baby foods, breakfast cereals, pasta, and whole-grain products.

Animal sources include fish like salmon, mackerel, eel, sardines and meat and poultry, such as chicken, turkey, kidneys, and liver.

Vitamin B2 is also present in minute quantities in apples, figs, carrots, and cabbages. Unlike other vitamins, the B2 vitamin does not get destroyed or eliminated while cooking, hence most of the food under this category can easily be enjoyed as a delicious dish.

Deficiencies

This vitamin is essential for providing energy to the body for carrying various activities. Lack of it can decrease the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates leading to underlying deficiency syndromes.

Riboflavin deficiency also termed as ariboflavinosis causes stomatitis including painful red tongue with sore throat, red chapped, and fissured lips (also called cheilosis), and inflammation of the corners of the mouth (i.e. angular stomatitis), inflammation of the tongue, mouth ulcers and cracks at the corner of the mouth (i.e. angular cheilitis).

Generally, a diet lacking this potent nutrient may cause bloodshot eyes, high sensitivity to light, a burning sensation in the eyes or itchy, watery eyes, split nails, dry or oily hair, dandruff, indigestion, dizziness, insomnia, etc.

Lack of riboflavin in the diet causes malfunctioning of the adrenal glands leading to conditions like anaemia, cataract, and chronic fatigue syndrome. It can also lead to scaly skin rashes on the male and female genitals, rashes on the medial cleft of the upper lip or the smile lines connecting the nose and chin (i.e. nasolabial fold).

A diet deficient in this B vitamin for a pregnant woman can also cause birth defects, congenital cardiac defects and abnormal limbs and deformities in the foetus. It can also lead to pellagra or malaria in adults. If the symptoms of riboflavin deficiencies are not met with for a long time period, it may also lead to degeneration of the liver and neural system.

Toxicity

Vitamin B2 is one such essential nutrient that does not portray any abnormal side effects or contraindications if taken in an optimum amount. A diet rich in riboflavin mostly turns the colour of urine yellowish-orange.

The Food and Nutrition Board for the National Institute of Medicine vouches for the safety of this vitamin in children as well after proper consultation with a nutritionist. The Recommended Daily Allowance of the B vitamin is 1.3 mg daily for men and 1.1 mg for women. It is extremely important to get consulted with a doctor or health supervisor before taking Vitamin B2 in supplement form as an overdosage might cause migraine, cataract, stomach pain, diarrhoea, and increased urine.

Conclusion

Vitamin B2 is a water-soluble nutrient essential for breaking down fats and carbohydrates into simpler forms to enrich the body with a dose of energy for carrying out the various bodily functions. Being a potent antioxidant, it holds high significance in treating a myriad of ailments including anaemia, migraine, heart problems, vision disorders, liver problems and is extremely beneficial for healthy skin and hair. Blessed with a good load of dietary options, one can easily avoid the deficiency syndromes and reap the benefits.

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