Munson Health
 
Vitamin B2

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Supplement Forms/Alternate Names

  • Riboflavin
  • Riboflavin-5-Phosphate
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B 2 , is an essential nutrient required for life. This vitamin works with two enzymes critical to the body's production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—its main energy source. Vitamin B 2 is also used to process amino acids and fats and to activate vitamin B 6 and folate.
Preliminary evidence suggests that riboflavin supplements may offer benefits for two illnesses: migraine headaches and cataracts.
 

Therapeutic Uses

One very large study suggests that riboflavin at nutritional doses may be helpful for cataracts , but in this study it was combined with another B vitamin—niacin ( vitamin B 3 )—so it's hard to say which vitamin was responsible for the effect. 9
Riboflavin has also been proposed as a treatment for sickle-cell anemia , 10HIV infection, 11 and as a performance enhancer for athletes, but there is no real evidence that it is effective for these uses.
 

What Is the Scientific Evidence for Vitamin B 2 ?

Migraine Headaches

According to a 3-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 55 people with migraines, riboflavin can significantly reduce the frequency and duration of migraine attacks. 12 This study found that, when given at least 2 months to work, a daily dose of riboflavin (400 mg) can produce dramatic migraine relief. The majority of the participants experienced a greater than 50% decrease in the number of migraine attacks as well as the total days with headache pain. However, a larger and longer study is needed to follow up on these results.

Cataracts

Riboflavin supplements may help prevent cataracts, but the evidence isn't yet clear. In a large, double-blind placebo-controlled study, 3,249 people were given either placebo or one of four nutrient combinations ( vitamin A - zinc , riboflavin- niacin , vitamin C - molybdenum , or selenium - beta-carotene - vitamin E ) for a period of 6 years. 13 Those receiving the riboflavin-niacin supplement showed a significant (44%) reduction in the incidence of cataracts. However, it is unclear whether the benefits seen in this group were due to niacin, riboflavin, or the combination of the two. Strangely, there was a small, but statistically significantly higher incidence of a special type of cataract (called a subcapsular cataract) in the niacin-riboflavin group.
 

References

1
Powers HJ, Thronham DI. Riboflavin deficiency in man: effects on haemoglobin and reduced glutathione in erythrocytes of different ages. Br J Nutr . 1981;46:257-266.

2
Elsborg L, Nielsen JA, Bertram U, et al. The intake of vitamins and minerals by the elderly at home. Int J Vitam Nutr Res . 1983;53:321-329.

3
Lopez R, Schwartz JV, Cooperman JM. Riboflavin deficiency in an adolescent population in New York City. Am J Clin Nutr . 1980;33:1283-1286.

4
Southon S, Bailey AL, Wright AJ, et al. Micronutrient undernutrition in British schoolchildren. Proc Nutr Soc . 1993;52:155-163.

5
Webb JL. Nutritional effects of oral contraceptive use: a review. J Reprod Med. 1980;25:150-156.

6
Larsson-Cohn U. Oral contraceptives and vitamins: a review. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1975;121:84-90.

7
Wynn V. Vitamins and oral contraceptive use. Lancet. 1975;1:561-564.

8
Schoenen J, Jacquy J, Lenaerts M. Effectiveness of high-dose riboflavin in migraine prophylaxis. A randomized controlled trial. Neurology . 1998;50:466-470.

9
Sperduto RD, Hu TS, Milton RC, et al. The Linxian cataract studies. Two nutrition intervention trials. Arch Ophthalmol . 1993;111:1246-1253.

10
Ajayi OA, George BO, Ipadeola T. Clinical trial of riboflavin in sickle cell disease. East Afr Med J . 1993;70:418-421.

11
Tang AM, Graham NM, Saah AJ. Effects of micronutrient intake on survival in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection. Am JEpidemiol. 1996;143:1244-1256.

12
Schoenen J, Jacquy J, Lenaerts M. Effectiveness of high-dose riboflavin in migraine prophylaxis. A randomized controlled trial. Neurology . 1998;50:466-470.

13
Sperduto RD, Hu TS, Milton RC, et al. The Linxian cataract studies. Two nutrition intervention trials. Arch Ophthalmol . 1993;111:1246-1253.

 

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