What is vitamin B2 – Riboflavin?

Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, is important for helping the body break down proteins, fats and carbohydrate and plays a vital role in maintaining the body’s energy supply. It also assists in red blood cell production. Riboflavin helps convert carbohydrates into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The human body produces ATP from food, and ATP produces energy as the body requires it. The compound ATP is vital for storing energy in muscles. Since the human body is unable to produce riboflavin, it must be consumed through various riboflavin-rich foods.

Types of B vitamins:

The eight B vitamins are:

  • B1 (thiamin)
  • B2 (riboflavin)
  • B3 (niacin)
  • B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • B6 (pyridoxine)
  • B7 (biotin)
  • B9 (folate)
  • B12 (cobalamin)

B vitamins are water-soluble, so they dissolve quickly in the body. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K), water-soluble vitamins are absorbed by the body’s tissues and are not stored for long-term use. Therefore, any excess water-soluble vitamins are excreted through urine, faeces and sweat. For this reason, regular intake of each B vitamin is necessary to maintain optimal levels in the body.  

Animal foods rich in vitamin B2:

  • Dairy products
  • Egg yolks
  • Red meat
  • Salmon
  • Tuna

Plant-based foods rich in vitamin B2:

  • Soybeans
  • Almonds
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Whole grains
  • Fortified breakfast cereal

Signs & symptoms of vitamin B2 deficiency:

Having a riboflavin deficiency can lead to other nutritional deficiencies because riboflavin is involved with processing nutrients. The primary concern associated with other deficiencies is anaemia, which happens when you don’t get enough iron.

It’s especially important to make sure you get enough riboflavin in your diet if you’re pregnant. A riboflavin deficiency could endanger your baby’s growth and development, and increase your chances of preeclampsia, which involves dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy.

  • Anaemia
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Mouth sores
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Reduced reflexes
  • Tingling sensation in arms and legs
  • Muscle weakness
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness

These symptoms are considered quite general and could be a result of other factors going on in the body as well, so it’s important to assess one’s diet to make sure there is a variety of foods containing thiamine. Otherwise, thiamine deficiency can be easily reversed with supplementation as well.

Can you have too much vitamin B2?

Excess riboflavin or toxicity is rare. You’d have to eat an impossible large amount of food to overdose on riboflavin naturally. You could get too much vitamin B-2 through supplements in oral or injection form, but this is also rare because your body doesn’t store the vitamin.


All tissues of our body need riboflavin to function properly. Most of us get enough thiamine from food but there are certain medical conditions and dietary practices that may cancel out the body’s usage of riboflavin, which can lead to deficiency. In these cases, supplements may be necessary. It’s important to talk to your practitioner before taking any riboflavin supplement. It’s key to ensure that you have the right balance of B vitamins in your body.

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