Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Vitamin B2 aka Riboflavin helps migraine headaches. Also, many with eating disorders have a Vitamin B2 and B6 deficiency. Learn about the usage, dosage, side-effects of Vitamin B2-Riboflavin.

Vitamin B2 aka Riboflavin helps migraine headaches. Also, many with eating disorders have a Vitamin B2 and B6 deficiency. Learn about the usage, dosage, side-effects of Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin).


Vitamin B2, commonly called riboflavin, is one of eight water-soluble B vitamins. Like its close relative vitamin B1 (thiamine), riboflavin plays a crucial role in certain metabolic reactions, particularly the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar, which is "burned" to produce energy. Together, the eight B vitamins, often referred to as B complex vitamins, are also essential in the breakdown of fats and protein. In addition, B complex vitamins play an important role in maintaining muscle tone along the lining of the digestive tract and promoting the health of the nervous system, skin, hair, eyes, mouth, and liver.

In addition to producing energy for the body, riboflavin also works as an antioxidant by scavenging damaging particles in the body known as free radicals. These particles occur naturally in the body but can damage cell membranes, interact with genetic material, and possibly contribute to the aging process as well as the development of a number of health conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants such as riboflavin can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.

Unlike other B vitamins, riboflavin is not found in many foods, so the most common cause of deficiency is lack of dietary intake, especially in the elderly. Symptoms of riboflavin deficiency include fatigue; slowed growth; digestive problems; cracks and sores around the corners of the mouth; swollen magenta tongue; eye fatigue; soreness of the lips, mouth and tongue; and sensitivity to light. Riboflavin is an important nutrient in the prevention of headache and some visual disturbances, particularly cataracts.




Vitamin B2 Uses

[folic acid], and Dietary and supplemental vitamin B2, along with other nutrients is important for normal vision and prevention of cataracts (damage to the lens of the eye which can lead to cloudy vision). In fact, people with plenty of protein and vitamins A, B1, B2, and B3 (niacin) in their diet are less likely to develop cataracts. Plus, taking additional supplements of vitamins C, E, and B complex (particularly the B1, B2, B9B12 [cobalamin] in the complex ) may further protect the lens of your eyes from developing cataracts. (Note: no more than 10 mg per day of riboflavin should be used because levels above that could actually promote damage to the lens from the sun.)

Vitamin B2 for Migraine Headache
For many migraine sufferers, taking riboflavin regularly may help decrease the frequency and shorten the duration of migraine headaches. It is not clear how riboflavin compares to conventional medications used to prevent migraine headaches, however.

It is especially important for people who have sustained serious burns to obtain adequate amounts of nutrients in their daily diet. When skin is burned, a substantial percentage of micronutrients may be lost. This increases the risk for infection, slows the healing process, prolongs the hospital stay, and even increases the risk of death. Although it is unclear which micronutrients are most beneficial for people with burns, many studies suggest that a multivitamin including the B complex vitamins may aid in the recovery process.

Vitamin B2 for Eating Disorders
Levels of important nutrients are often quite low in people with anorexia or bulimia. At least 20% of people with anorexia admitted to a hospital for treatment are deficient in vitamins B2 and B6 (pyridoxine). Some research information suggests that as many as 33% of those with an eating disorder could be deficient in vitamins B2 and B6. Dietary changes alone, without additional supplements, can often bring vitamin B levels back to normal. However, extra B2 and B6 may be required (which will be determined by your doctor or nutritionist). Plus, B-complex vitamins may help alleviate stress and reduce symptoms of depression, frequently associated with eating disorders.

Children with sickle-cell anemia (a blood disorder characterized by abnormally shaped red blood cells) tend to have lower levels of certain antioxidants including riboflavin. Studies also suggest that riboflavin supplementation may improve iron deficiency anemia by enhancing the response to iron.

Low levels of riboflavin in the diet and/or riboflavin deficiency has been associated with rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, Crohn's disease, colon cancer, atherosclerotic heart disease, and multiple sclerosis. It is not clear, however, whether increased riboflavin in the diet or riboflavin supplements would help protect against any of these conditions except for, perhaps, carpal tunnel syndrome. There have been a couple of reports in the medical literature about a few individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome and low levels of riboflavin experiencing improvement in their symptoms by taking this B vitamin. More research for each of these conditions is needed.




Vitamin B2 Dietary Sources

The best sources of riboflavin include brewer's yeast, almonds, organ meats, whole grains, wheat germ, wild rice, mushrooms, soybeans, milk, yogurt, eggs, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and spinach. Flours and cereals are often fortified with riboflavin.

Riboflavin is destroyed by light; therefore, items should be stored away from the light to protect their riboflavin content. This is the reason that many dairy companies switched from glass milk bottles to cartons and opaque containers.

While riboflavin is not destroyed by heat, it can be lost in water when foods are boiled or soaked.


Vitamin B2 Available

Riboflavin is generally included in multivitamin preparations and in B-complex vitamins, and comes individually in 25-, 50-, and 100-mg tablets.


How to Take Vitamin B2

As with all medicines, check with a healthcare provider before giving riboflavin supplements to a child.

Daily recommendations for dietary riboflavin are listed below.


  • Infants birth to 6 months: 0.3 mg (adequate intake)
  • Infants 7 to 12 months: 0.4 mg (adequate intake)
  • Children 1 to 3 years: 0.5 mg (RDA)
  • Children 4 to 8 years: 0.6 mg (RDA)
  • Children 9 to 13 years: 0.9 mg (RDA)
  • Males 14 to 18 years: 1.3 mg (RDA)
  • Females 14 to 18 years: 1 mg (RDA)



  • Males 19 years and older: 1.3 mg (RDA)
  • Females 19 years and older: 1.1 mg (RDA)
  • Pregnant females: 1.4 mg (RDA)
  • Breastfeeding females: 1.6 mg (RDA)

People who do not eat a balanced diet every day would likely benefit from taking a multivitamin and mineral complex on a daily basis A good rule of thumb when selecting a multivitamin is to look for one that includes 100% to 300 % of the Daily Value for all essential vitamins and minerals. If you decide to increase the amount of a particular nutrient make sure you know the safe supplemental range and any contraindications. It is wise to check with a knowledgeable health care provider if you are considering nutrient supplements doses higher than 300 % Daily Value.



Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a knowledgeable healthcare provider.

Absorption of Vitamin B2 is best when it is taken with meals.

Riboflavin does not appear to cause any serious side effects. Possible reactions to very high doses may include itching, numbness, burning or prickling sensations, and sensitivity to light.

Taking any one of the B complex vitamins for a long period of time can result in an imbalance of other important B vitamins. For this reason, it is generally important to take a B complex vitamin with any single B vitamin




Possible Interactions

If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use vitamin B2 supplements without first talking to your healthcare provider.

Antibiotics, Tetracycline
Riboflavin should not be taken at the same time as the antibiotic tetracycline because it interferes with the absorption and effectiveness of this medication. Riboflavin either alone or in combination with other B vitamins should be taken at different times from tetracycline. (All vitamin B complex supplements act in this way and should therefore be taken at different times from tetracycline.)

In addition, long-term use of antibiotics can deplete vitamin B levels in the body, particularly B2, B9, B12, and vitamin H (biotin), which is considered part of the B complex.

Vitamin B2 and Alzheimer's Disease
Tricyclic antidepressants (such as imipramine, desimpramine, amitriptyline, and nortriptyline) also reduce levels of riboflavin in the body. Taking riboflavin may improve levels of the vitamin and improve the effectiveness of these antidepressants, especially in elderly patients.

Anti-malarial Medications
Riboflavin may reduce the effectiveness of anti-malarial medications such as chloroquine and mefloquine.

Vitamin B2 and Antipsychotic Medications
Antipsychotic medications called phenothiazines (such as chlorpromazine) may lower riboflavin levels.

Birth Control Medications
Poor dietary habits in combination with birth control medications can interfere with the body's ability to use riboflavin.


In the presence of daylight, riboflavin may deactivate doxorubicin, a medication used for the treatment of certain cancers. In addition, doxorubicin may deplete levels of riboflavin and, therefore, increased amounts of this nutrient may be recommended during chemotherapy using this drug. Your doctor will guide you on whether this is necessary or not.

Methotrexate, a medication used to treat cancer, can prevent the body from making riboflavin (as well as other essential vitamins).

Vitamin B2 and Phenytoin
Phenytoin, a medication used to control epileptic seizures, may affect riboflavin levels in children.

This medication used for gout may decrease the absorption of riboflavin from the digestive tract and increase the excretion in the urine.

Similar to its effects on doxorubicin, riboflavin may deactivate selegiline, a medication used to treat Parkinson's disease, in the presence of daylight.

Sulfa-containing Medications
Riboflavin may reduce the effectiveness of sulfa-containing medications, such as certain antibiotics (for example, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole) used to treat bacterial infections.

In addition, as stated earlier, long-term use of antibiotics can deplete vitamin B levels in the body, particularly B2, B9, B12, and vitamin H (biotin), which is considered part of the B complex.

Thiazide Diuretics

Diuretics that belong to a class known as thiazides, such as hydrochlorothiazide, may increase the loss of riboflavin in the urine.

back to: Supplement-Vitamins Homepage

Supporting Research

Adelekan DA, Thurnham DI, Adekile AD. Reduced antioxidant capacity in paediatric patients with homozygous sickle cell disease. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1989;43(9):609-614.

Antoon AY, Donovan DK. Burn Injuries. In: Behrman RE, Kliegman RM, Jenson HB, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. Philadelphia, Pa: W.B. Saunders Company; 2000:287-294.

Bell, IR, Edman JS, Morrow FD, et al. Brief communication. Vitamin B1, B2, and B6 augmentation of tricyclic antidepressant treatment in geriatric depression with cognitive dysfunction. J Am Coll Nutr. 1992;11(2):159-163.

Bomgaars L, Gunawardena S, Kelley SE, Ramu A. The inactivation of doxorubicin by long ultraviolet light. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 1997;40(6):506-512.

Cumming RG, Mitchell P, Smith W. Diet and cataract: the Blue Mountains Eye Study.
Ophthalmology. 2000;107(3):450-456.

De-Souza DA, Greene LJ. Pharmacological nutrition after burn injury. J Nutr. 1998;128:797-803.

Dreizen S, McCredie KB, Keating MJ, Andersson BS. Nutritional deficiencies in patients receiving cancer chemotherapy. Postgrad Med. 1990;87(1):163-167, 170.

Fishman SM, Christian P, West KP. The role of vitamins in the prevention and control of anaemia. [Review]. Public Health Nutr. 2000;3(2):125-150.

Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1998.


Folkers K, Ellis J. Successful therapy with vitamin B6 and vitamin B2 of the carpal tunnel syndrome and need for determination of the RDAs for vitamins B6 and B2 for disease states. Ann NY Acad Sci. 1990;585:295-301.

Folkers K, Wolaniuk A, Vadhanavikit S. Enzymology of the response of the carpal tunnel syndrome to riboflavin and to combined riboflavin and pyridoxine. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1984;81(22):7076-7078.

Gartside PS, Glueck CJ. The important role of modifiable dietary and behavioral characteristics in the causation and prevention of coronary heart disease hospitalization and mortality: the prospective NHANES I follow-up study. J Am Coll Nutr. 1995;14(1):71-79.

Ghadirian P, Jain M, Ducic S, Shatenstein B, Morisset R. Nutritional factors in the aetiology of multiple sclerosis: a case-control study in Montreal, Canada. Int J Epidemiol. 1998;27(5):845-852.

Head KA. Natural therapies for ocular disorders, part two: cataracts and glaucoma. [Review]. Altern Med Rev. 2001;6(2):141-166.

Hill MJ. Intestinal flora and endogenous vitamin synthesis. Eur J Cancer Prev. 1997;6(Suppl 1):S43-45.

Jacques PF, Chylack LT Jr, Hankinson SE, et al. Long-term nutrient intake and early age-related nuclear lens opacities. Arch Ophthalmol. 2001;119(7):1009-1019.

Kirschmann GJ, Kirschmann JD. Nutrition Almanac. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill;1996:84-86.

Kuzniarz M, Mitchell P, Cumming RG, Flood VM. Use of vitamin supplements and cataract: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Am J Ophthalmol. 2001;132(1):19-26.

LaVecchia C, Braga C, Negri E, et al. Intake of selected micronutrients and risk of colorectal cancer. Int J Cancer. 1997;73:525-530.

Lewis JA, Baer MT, Laufer MA. Urinary riboflavin and creatinine excretion in children treated with anticonvulsant drugs [letter]. Am J Dis Child. 1975;129:394.

Mauskop A. Alternative therapies in headache. Is there a role? [Review]. Med Clin North Am. 2001;85(4):1077-1084.

Meyer NA, Muller MJ, Herndon DN. Nutrient support of the healing wound. New Horizons. 1994;2(2):202-214.

Mulherin DM, Thurnham DI, Situnayake RD. Glutathione reductase activity, riboflavin status, and disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis. Ann Rheum Dis. 1996;55(11):837-840.

Nutrients and Nutritional Agents. In: Kastrup EK, Hines Burnham T, Short RM, et al, eds. Drug Facts and Comparisons. St. Louis, Mo: Facts and Comparisons; 2000:4-5.

Omray A. Evaluation of pharmacokinetic parameters of tetracylcine hydrochloride upon oral administration with vitamin C and vitamin B complex. Hindustan Antibiot Bull. 1981;23(VI):33-37.

Parks OW. Photodegredation of sulfa drugs by fluorescent light. J Assoc Off Anal Chem. 1985;68(6):1232-1234.

Pinto JT, Rivlin RS. Drugs that promote renal excretion of riboflavin. Drug Nutr Interact. 1987;5(3):143-151.

Ramu A, Mehta MM, Leaseburg T, Aleksic A. The enhancement of riboflavin-mediated photo-oxidation of doxorubicin by histidine and urocanic acid. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2001;47(4):338-346.

Rock CL, Vasantharajan S. Vitamin status of eating disorder patients: Relationship to clinical indices and effect of treatment. Int J Eating Disord. 1995;18:257-262.

Schoenen J, Jacquy J, Lenaerts M. Effectiveness of high-dose riboflavin in migraneprophilaxis. A randomized controlled trial. Neurology. 1998;50:466 - 470.

Silberstein SD, Goadsby PJ, Lipton RB. Management of migraine: an algorithmic approach. [Review]. Neurology. 2000;55(9 Suppl 2):S46-52.

Takacs M, Vamos J, Papp Q, et al. In vitro interaction of selegiline, riboflavin and light. Sensitized photodegradation of drugs [in Hungarian] [Abstract]. Acta Pharm Hung. 1999;69(3):103-107.

Wolf E. Vitamin therapy helps fight CTS. Occup Health Saf. 1987;56(2):67.

back to: Supplement-Vitamins Homepage

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 18). Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Last Updated: July 10, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

More Info