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vitamin B2

Alternative Names

Riboflavin, or Vitamin B2, is a water-soluble vitamin. It is one of the eight B vitamins. The B vitamin complex includes vitamins B1, niacin, B6, B12, folate, biotin, and pantothenic acid.

What food source is the nutrient found in?
Good sources of riboflavin include:
  • milk and dairy products
  • meat and eggs
  • leafy dark green vegetables
  • whole-grain or enriched breads and cereals
  • organ meats such as liver, kidney, and heart
Milk products supply about half of the riboflavin that people get in their diet. Ultraviolet light, such as sunlight, destroys riboflavin. This is why milk is stored in opaque plastic or cardboard containers. Unlike other vitamins, riboflavin is not destroyed by cooking. However, when grains are milled, or refined, most of the riboflavin and other nutrients are removed. This makes whole-grain foods, such as oatmeal and whole wheat, better choices. Enriched refined foods are also acceptable choices because the riboflavin lost in refining has been added back in. All these sources provide riboflavin. Refined foods, like white rice, that have not been enriched do not supply riboflavin in any significant amount. The content of riboflavin in some foods are:
  • 1 cup of milk = 0.4 mg (milligrams)
  • 1 cup of cottage cheese = 0.37 mg
  • 1 cup of yoghurt = 1.6 mg
  • 100g pork chop = 0.3 mg
  • 100g of beef liver, braised = 4.5 mg
How does the nutrient affect the body?
Riboflavin is important in converting food into energy in the body. Riboflavin is necessary to convert an amino acid, tryptophan, into niacin. It also works closely with other B vitamins. Riboflavin helps make red blood cells and it keeps body tissues healthy, especially the skin and eyes. It is important for growth and development and for the production and regulation of certain hormones.

The recommended daily intake, or RDI, is:
  • adult men from age 19 to 50, 1.7 mg (milligrams)
  • men over age 50, 1.4 mg
  • adult women from age 19 to 50, 1.3 mg
  • women over age 50, 1.2 mg
  • pregnant women, 1.6 mg
  • breastfeeding women, 1.8 mg during the first six months and 1.7 mg the second six months after the baby's birth
Several servings per day from riboflavin-rich foods are needed to meet requirements. Because riboflavin is found in so many foods, a balanced diet will usually provide enough.

Because riboflavin is so important, a shortage in the diet can cause problems. Severe riboflavin deficiency with clinical symptoms is rare. Mild deficiencies are more common, especially with elderly people and individuals with anorexia nervosa. Strict vegans, who eat no meat or dairy products, may have riboflavin deficiencies. Symptoms may include:
  • dry and scaly skin, especially on the face
  • cracks at the corners of the mouth
  • eye disorders
  • swollen tongue or gums
Poor growth can occur if deficiency persists. Vitamin supplements usually reverse symptoms in a few days to a few weeks.

There is no known toxicity for riboflavin. It is a water-soluble vitamin, so any extra is passed out in the urine.

Author: Kimberly Tessmer, RD, LD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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