Craig Leonard

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Vitamin B2 (AKA Riboflavin): A Brief Overview and Introduction

Craig Leonard December 15, 2015
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

I started a series of articles last year dedicated to exploring the various micronutrients that can be found in differing forms within our food supply.

I decided to embark on writing this series because, as a group, we health-and-fitness-minded individuals tend to give far too much attention to the macronutrients (i.e. carbohydrates, alcohols, fats, and proteins) we’re consuming and not nearly enough attention to the micronutrients in our diets (i.e. vitamins and minerals).

Let’s be honest, though. It’s hard enough to track all the carbs, proteins and fats we’re consuming and it would be downright unrealistic for most people to track their daily intake of vitamins and minerals, as well.

But, make no mistake. Micronutrients play an absolutely vital role in keeping our bodies healthy and micronutrient deficiencies can lead to a number of debilitating health problems.

In that regard, it’s of paramount importance that we’re at least aware of the need to supply our bodies with sufficient quantities of micronutrients, and do our part to ensure we’re not depriving them of the nutrients they need to fight off disease and function at a high level.

It’s now been more than a year since my last posting in this series and I’m excited to get back to writing on this critical topic (in case you’re interested, you can click here to listen to a recent podcast where I explain why it’s been so long between articles).

With this posting I’m kicking off what will be a mini-series of articles dedicated to comprehensively expounding upon the micronutrient formally known as vitamin B2.

Vitamin B2 is the third micronutrient in this series. If you need to catch up on the first two I’ve already covered, here are the links to my previous articles dedicated to the micronutrients vitamin A and vitamin B1:

Vitamin A Facts and Health Benefits

The Complete Guide on Vitamin B1

I mentioned above that this is going to be the first in a mini-series of articles dedicated to Vitamin B2. As such, the main motive for today’s posting is to simply re-introduce the purpose of this series on micronutrients and to give an overview of vitamin B2 before we delve into the more intricate subtopics within future postings.

An Introduction and Overview of Vitamin B2 (AKA Riboflavin)

I’d like to start this introduction to vitamin B2 by pointing out that if you’ve ever heard of riboflavin, or noticed it as an ingredient on a nutritional label, this is simply another name for vitamin B2. I wanted to point this out because I’ll be using the two terms interchangeably throughout this and future articles devoted to vitamin B2.

What’s with the name riboflavin, anyway?

“Ribo” comes from the Latin word Ribose which describes a sugar whose reduced molecular form, ribitol, forms part of the molecular structure of vitamin B2.

If you’ve ever eaten a side of asparagus or taken a multivitamin and noticed your urine having a bright yellow coloration, you’ve been a firsthand witness of seeing where the “flavin” portion of riboflavin comes from.

When there’s a significant amount of vitamin B2 in one’s system it turns the color of their urine bright yellow.

The Latin word “flavus” is the root word from which the word “flavin” in riboflavin is derived. Flavus is the Latin word for yellow and describes the yellowing of urine that occurs after ingesting riboflavin.

Unsurprisingly, riboflavin has the distinguished honor of being the only micronutrient named after the visual impact it has on a person’s pee stream.

As a bonus for all of you trivia buffs out there, another obscure fact about vitamin B2 is that it’s also less commonly referred to as vitamin G.

I’ll cover the full range of health benefits vitamin B2 provides within my next posting, but I want to at least mention in this overview that vitamin B2 is an antioxidant. This describes the fact that riboflavin aids in cleansing the body of free radicals.

The elimination of free radicals is an essential function for maintaining optimal health and fighting off a number of diseases, life threatening and otherwise. Vitamin B2 is considered to be a mild antioxidant. It’s not nearly as efficient at ridding the body of free radicals as some other antioxidants (such as those found in green tea).

Still, it does contain antioxidant properties and I felt I’d be remiss not to at least mention it in this introduction to vitamin B2.

Flour Is Sometimes Spiked With Vitamin B2 (You Know, For The Kids’ Sake!)

In the United States the flour used in cereals is often enriched with vitamin B2 in order to replace what is lost during processing to ensure children receive adequate amounts of this critical micronutrient.

As we all know, cereals are marketed heavily on television and otherwise. They also happen to be one of the most convenient “foods” for parents to feed their children in the morning. Unfortunately, this leads to many parents offering up cereal to their children for breakfast on a regular basis.

This, combined with the generally less-than-nutritious diets of kids (for which today’s parents ought to be ashamed), leads to children in the U.S. receiving a large percentage of their vitamin B2 through the flour enrichment process, instead of the other healthier – and 100% natural – sources available to them.

It appears that the proposed solution to the recognition by the powers that be that today’s kids run a significant risk of being deficient in riboflavin is to spike the toxic junk they’re consuming with it.

I can’t hate on the creativity, but there are a number of healthier options available that provide far greater nutritional benefit than spiking a  junk food whose nutrition has been processed out of it before being loaded up with addictive sugars and dangerous artificial sweeteners for good measure.

I’ll be providing a detailed breakdown of the best natural sources of vitamin B2 as part of this mini-series and will have it posted in the near future.

So What’s Next?

Next up in this series I’m going to cover all the various health benefits vitamin B2 provides the body.

(Update: Click here to read my Vitamin B2 Health Benefits and Symptoms of Deficiency article.

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