Vitamin Watch: What Does B2 Do?

So many B vitamins, so little time. What is B2 and how does it work?

B2 is also called riboflavin, and you’re probably more familiar with it than you think you are. Not only is it found naturally in meat, dairy products, and some vegetables, it’s also made synthetically.

Ever eaten a sugary treat that looks like it’s glowing yellow or light green? Chances are it contains riboflavin. If you’ve ever consumed a lot of B vitamins — for instance, by taking a vitamin B energy supplement — you might have noticed a dark yellow tinge to your urine. That comes from riboflavin.

Riboflavin is often added as a supplement to cereal and bread, and as food coloring for candy.

What Does B2 Do for You?

Did You Know?
Your body can’t store vitamin B2, so you need to consume it daily.

B2 and the other B vitamins build red blood cells and support other cellular functions that give you energy. This includes the break down of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. If you take supplements containing B vitamins, you might have noticed an energy boost.

Riboflavin is essential to red blood cell production. The B vitamins work best in tandem, meaning you’ll get the most out of them if you take supplements or eat foods that contain all the B vitamins.

You Probably Get Enough of It

It’s pretty easy to get enough B2 if you’re healthy and eat a balanced diet. It’s present at the levels most of us need in dairy products like cottage cheese and milk. It’s also found in eggs (check out those yellow yolks!).

Red meat and the dark meat in chicken are other great riboflavin sources. If fish is your favorite dish, you can get riboflavin from salmon and tuna. 

If you like beans and nuts, you’ll get a dose of B2 (and healthy fiber) in soybeans and almonds. Riboflavin is plentiful in vegetables — especially the darker ones like spinach, broccoli, and asparagus. 

B2 is present in grains such as wheat. But because it’s sensitive to light and fairly perishable, grain products may not have much naturally occurring riboflavin by the time they get to your table. That’s why it’s sometimes added in processing.

Deficiency Is Still a Risk

Riboflavin deficiency can cause problems with the body by limiting important cellular processes.

Did You Know?
Signs of vitamin B2 deficiency include:
  • bloodshot eyes
  • mouth infections
  • extreme sensitivity to light
  • chapped lips
  • Having a riboflavin deficiency can result in other nutritional deficiencies, since riboflavin is involved with processing functions. The primary concern associated with other deficiencies is anemia, which happens when you don’t get enough iron.

    If you’re pregnant and don’t get enough riboflavin in your diet, you could endanger your baby’s growth and increase your chances of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a dangerous condition of high blood pressure during pregnancy. The most severe complication of preeclampsia is lack of blood flow to the placenta.

    Riboflavin deficiency is rare in places where people have access to fresh foods or supplemental vitamins. If you’re experiencing signs of riboflavin deficiency, you could have a problem absorbing nutrients. Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease are possible causes.

    What Happens if You Get Too Much B2?

    Excess riboflavin, or riboflavin toxicity, is very rare. You’d have to eat almost impossibly large quantities of food to overdose on riboflavin naturally. You could take too much B2 in supplements, or in a shot, but this is also rare because the vitamin is not stored in the body. 

    If you did overdose on riboflavin, the primary risk is damage to the liver.