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VITAMIN B2 (Riboflavin)

Vitamin B2 is required by the body to use oxygen and for the metabolism of amino acids, fatty acids, carbohydrates and protein. Vitamin B2 is further needed to activate vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B9 (folic acid), helps to create vitamin B3 (niacin) and assists the adrenal gland. It is also used for red blood cell formation, antibody production, cell respiration and growth. It eases watery eye fatigue and may be helpful in the prevention and treatment of cataracts.

Vitamin B2 is also required for the health of the mucus membranes in the digestive tract and helps with the absorption of iron and vitamin B6. Although it is needed for periods of rapid growth, it is also needed when protein intake is high and is most beneficial to the skin, hair and nails. Vitamin B2 helps reduce homocysteine levels in the body therefore reducing risk of heart strokes, heart attacks and deaths from heart disease. Vitamin B2 also helps reduce the frequency of migraine headaches.

Riboflavin is manufactured industrially using yeast or other fermenting organisms, used as a yellow colouring and as vitamin fortification, but is difficult to incorporate into most foods due to poor solubility and it is destroyed upon exposure to light.

Deficiency of vitamin B2

 When there is a deficiency of vitamin B2, acne, a sore tongue, cracking at the corners of the mouth and fatigue can occur which are the same symptoms shown by a deficiency of vitamin B6, vitamin B9 as well as iron. Low levels of vitamin B2 may also cause inflammation of the mouth and tongue, skin lesions, dermatitis, dizziness, hair loss, light sensitivity, poor digestion, retarded growth and slow mental responses. Burning feet can also be a sign of a shortage and it can also cause a lack of red blood cells. Other signs can include:

Coffee has a mild diuretic effect, which increases urination and water soluble vitamins, such as the B vitamins, can be depleted as a result of this fluid loss. In addition, it also interferes with the metabolism of some B vitamins, such as vitamin B2. Prolonged diarrhoea, drinking excessive alcohol and liver disease impairs the body's ability to absorb vitamin B2. Athletes, dancers and others involve in extreme physical activities may become deficient in vitamin B2 due to excessive perspiration and fluid loss.

See Performers and Sports Nutrition

Highest sources of vitamin B2 in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Yeast extract 17.5 mg

  • Lamb’s liver 4.59 mg

  • Baker’s yeast 4 mg

  • Parsley 2.38 mg

  • Cheese 1.38 mg

  • Almonds 1.10 mg

  • Lean beef 0.86 mg

  • Soya beans 0.76 mg

  • Wheat bran 0.58 mg

  • Mackerel 0.58 mg

Vitamin B2 toxicity

Supplements are not advised, unless blood tests show a deficiency, as vitamin B1 taken in excess can cause allergic reactions such as burning or prickling sensations, itching, numbness, urine discoloration (yellow or orange) an increased sensitivity to light and in, rare cases, anaphylactic shock.

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