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Vitamin B2 Health Benefits and Symptoms of Deficiency

Craig Leonard December 22, 2015
Vitamin B2 Health Benefits

I recently posted an introductory overview of vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you click here to do so before going forward with reading today’s follow-on posting.

In my previous article I touched on a few of the health benefits vitamin B2 provides us. Today, though, I want to go into much greater detail regarding the positive results you can expect to experience from consistently providing your body with an adequate amount of this important micronutrient.

I’ll also cover the detrimental impact being vitamin B2 deficient may have on your body and quality of life, as well.

By the time you’re done reading this article I trust you’ll be encouraged to take the steps necessary to reap all the benefits vitamin B2 provides while avoiding the potentially debilitating symptoms associated with depriving your body of the riboflavin it requires to function optimally.

Vitamin B2 – like all other B-complex vitamins – is water soluble (i.e.it dissolves in water). This property of riboflavin leads to it being readily flushed from the body during urination.  And the body does not store vitamin B2.

Because of this, it’s especially easy to become deficient in vitamin B2 if you’re not replacing what’s being extinguished; or at least it would be if riboflavin weren’t so readily available in America’s food supply (more on this later).

My next posting will focus on the best sources of vitamin B2 to include in your diet to keep from becoming deficient. Suffice it to say, being deficient in vitamin B2 can manifest itself in a number of undesirable ways.

We’ll get to these conditions in a bit, but I want to begin on a more positive note by looking at the health benefits associated with vitamin B2.

Vitamin B2 Health Benefits

One of the most tangible benefits riboflavin provides is that it enhances the body’s ability to convert carbohydrates into glucose. Glucose is the most efficient, readily available energy source available to the muscles of the body. Glucose and glycogen – a derivative of glucose that is stored in muscle tissue – is particularly useful during times of intense physical activity when breaking down adipose (fat) tissue would take far too long to supply the muscles with their immediate energy needs.

We’ve all experienced training sessions where we just don’t have a high gear in us. This is precisely what happens when the body is lacking in vitamin B2, as it becomes less efficient at converting consumed food into readily available energy.

Vitamin B2 is also used in the process of metabolizing body fat, making it a useful advocate for all who desire to reduce their body fat percentage or maintain their already lean physique.

If you listened to my earlier suggestion to go back and read my previous post introducing vitamin B2 you’re already keen to the fact that riboflavin is an antioxidant. You’re likely already aware that antioxidants are an essential component of maximizing your health.

But why are they so integral?

Well, as the various molecules in the body become unbonded from each other they lose electrons. This process gives the resulting unbonded molecules a positive charge, which results in them looking for a nearby electron that they can take in to become stable again.

These positively charged molecules are what we call free radicals because their positive charge makes them extremely unstable and likely to react with with other nearby cells they come into contact with.

Generally, free radicals attack the nearest stable molecule, “stealing” its electron. When the “attacked” molecule loses its electron, it becomes a free radical itself, beginning a chain reaction. Once the process is started, it can cascade, eventually resulting in the disruption of a living cell. Normally, the body can handle free radicals, but if antioxidants are unavailable, or if the free-radical production becomes excessive, damage can occur. 1

As we age a certain amount of free radicals are going to be created and will accumulate regardless of the body having the supply of antioxidants necessary to keep them under control.

Still, the better job we do of keeping free radicals from prematurely proliferating within our body the more likely it will be that we’ll be able to enjoy an exemplary quality of health late into life.

To this end, vitamin B2 is an important ally in our fight against premature aging, heart disease, and cancer, which are all known to be directly related to the unfettered accumulation of free radicals within the body.

So how do antioxidants like vitamin B2 fight the accumulation of free radicals? Essentially they step in and sacrifice an electron to unstable, positively charged free radicals so other stable cells within the body don’t have to.

In other words, antioxidants neutralize free radicals by donating one of their own electrons, ending the electron-“stealing” reaction. The antioxidant nutrients themselves don’t become free radicals by donating an electron because they are stable in either form. They act as savior-scavengers, helping to prevent cell and tissue damage that could lead to cellular damage and disease. 2

Antioxidants are to free radicals what Jesus Christ is to the souls of sinners, each sacrificing of their own resources to ensure the safety of that which would otherwise be damned to ultimate destruction.

As should be obvious, antioxidants are an essential piece of any healthy diet and go a long way towards staving off the two most likely causes of death in America: Cancer and heart disease.

As mentioned in my previous article, green tea is one of the best fighters of free radicals in our nutritional arsenal. Green tea contains some of the most powerful antioxidants in existence. Just be careful because recent evidence suggests that drinking too much green tea may lead to diminishing testosterone levels.

A Couple More Vitamin B2 Health Benefits

Apart from its energy producing and antioxidant benefits, vitamin B2 is also used in modern medicine as a natural remedy for treating migraines. However, the amounts prescribed for migraine sufferers, usually around 400 mg, is far more than one can hope to receive from dietary sources alone.

So, if you’re someone who deals with frequent migraines, ask your doctor if supplementing with high dosages of riboflavin is something they’d recommend. Migraines are known to stem from many diverse causes and being deficient in vitamin B2 is only one possible factor.

Another benefit vitamin B2 provides is aiding in regulating red blood cell count. Because of this, riboflavin is often used as part of treating anemia, a condition where a person’s red blood cell count is chronically low. Having a low red blood cell count can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, and heart problems.

How Much Vitamin B2 Do You Need Each Day?

Per the University of Maryland Medical Center, the recommend daily allowances for riboflavin are as follows 3:

Pediatric

  • Infants, birth to 6 months: 0.3 mg
  • Infants, 7 to 12 months: 0.4 mg
  • Children, 1 to 3 years: 0.5 mg
  • Children, 4 to 8 years: 0.6 mg
  • Children, 9 to 13 years: 0.9 mg
  • Boys, 14 to 18 years: 1.3 mg
  • Girls, 14 to 18 years: 1 mg

Adult

  • Men, 19 years and older: 1.3 mg
  • Women, 19 years and older: 1.1 mg
  • Pregnant women: 1.4 mg
  • Breastfeeding women: 1.6 mg

There isn’t believed to be a level of daily ingested vitamin B2 that would be considered toxic. However, extremely high doses – beyond what you’re likely to receive from dietary sources alone – is thought to increase the risk of kidney stones and possibly make the eyes more sensitive to being damaged by the sun’s radiation.

For those who are prescribed a dosage of riboflavin in excess of 10 mg per day, for whatever reason, it would be prudent to make sure your eyes are protected with sunglasses when going outside.

As I mentioned earlier, most people will have no trouble ingesting enough riboflavin in their diet. This is due to the fact that it’s found in a host of different foods, including many processed foods which contain flour that’s been enriched with additional vitamin B2 as a precautionary safeguard against riboflavin deficiency.

Symptoms of Vitamin B2 Deficiency

Riboflavin deficiency (called ariboflavinosis) can appear at intakes of less than 0.5-0.6 mg/day. Too little riboflavin can cause fatigue, throat swelling/soreness, tongue swelling, skin cracking (including cracked corners of the mouth), dermatitis, and anemia. Riboflavin/vitamin B2 deficiency can also affect vision, including blurred vision and itching, watering, sore, or bloodshot eyes, as well eyes becoming light-sensitive and easily fatigued. 4

Besides the obvious of seeing your health care practitioner, another good place to start when experiencing any of these symptoms is by being intentional about consistently meeting your recommended daily allowance of riboflavin, based on your age and gender (see recommended allowances above).

Vitamin B2, like the rest of its micronutrient pals, can have a significant impact in our ability to stay healthy, prevent disease, train and recover effectively, stave off the effects of aging, and maintain optimal health.

Tomorrow I’ll be wrapping up this mini-series on vitamin B2 with a posting that provides the best nutritional sources of this essential micronutrient.

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