Vitamin B2 supports your growth and development, including helping your body create energy from the food you eat. Symptoms of a deficiency may include skin disorders and hair loss.

Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, is naturally present in some foods. It’s present in other foods in synthetic form and available as a dietary supplement. Most people get enough vitamin B2 from their diet, but it’s still possible to develop a deficiency, especially for people who do not consume dairy products like milk.

Keep reading to learn what this vitamin does, the recommended intakes, and the symptoms of a vitamin B2 deficiency.

Vitamin B2 and other B vitamins help your body build red blood cells and support other cellular functions that give you energy. You’ll get the most out of the B vitamins if you take supplements or eat foods that contain all of them.

Vitamin B2 helps support:

  • your growth and development
  • energy production, including the breakdown of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into energy
  • cellular function

You may have experienced an energy boost from taking supplements containing B vitamins, but this hasn’t yet been proven through research.

Riboflavin deficiency is rare in places where people have access to fresh foods or supplemental vitamins. But athletes who follow a vegan diet or a vegetarian diet may be more likely to have a deficiency in B vitamins and may need to take supplements to get the recommended amounts.

The symptoms of a vitamin B2 deficiency can include:

  • anemia
  • swollen throat or tongue
  • cataracts
  • skin issues, including itching and cracking

People with a riboflavin deficiency may also have other nutritional deficiencies. This can include anemia, which happens when you don’t get enough iron.

If you’re pregnant, a riboflavin deficiency could endanger your baby’s growth and increase your chances of preeclampsia, which involves dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy. This is a serious condition that can lead to eclampsia, which may be life threatening.

Talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing the symptoms of riboflavin deficiency. Some factors can increase your risk, including:

  • riboflavin transporter deficiency
  • pregnancy
  • lactation
  • following a vegan diet
  • being an athlete while following a vegetarian diet

Eating a balanced, nutritious diet can help you get enough vitamin B2 and other B vitamins.

Food sources of vitamin B2 include:

  • dairy products, such as milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt
  • fortified oats and breakfast cereals
  • egg yolks
  • red meat, such as beef and beef liver
  • salmon
  • cod
  • chicken
  • almonds
  • some grains, such as quinoa

Vitamin B2 is sensitive to light and perishable, however.

Riboflavin is often a supplement in cereal and bread, and it can be present as food coloring. If you’ve ever consumed a lot of B vitamins, you might have noticed a dark yellow tinge in your urine. This color comes from the riboflavin.

There’s no tolerable upper limit for riboflavin, as consuming it even in large doses over the recommended intake is unlikely to have a negative effect. The body does not store riboflavin.

However, it’s best to exercise caution and avoid consuming large amounts of dietary supplements without guidance from a doctor.

The Office of Dietary Supplements notes that riboflavin is not known to have any clinically relevant interactions with medications.

The recommended daily allowances for riboflavin can vary based on your age, sex, and other factors.

Life stage groupRecommended intake of vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Infants 6 months and younger0.3 milligrams (mg)
Infants 7–12 months0.4 mg
Children 1–3 years0.5 mg
Children 4–8 years0.6 mg
Children 9–13 years0.9 mg
People ages 14–181.3 mg for males, 1.0 mg for females
People ages 19 and older1.3 mg for males, 1.1 mg for females
People who are pregnant1.4 mg
People who are lactating1.6 mg

Experts typically recommend getting the vitamins and nutrients you need from food sources, if possible. You can also obtain riboflavin from dietary supplements, either as part of a vitamin B complex, a multivitamin, or riboflavin-only supplements. It’s best to talk with a healthcare professional prior to taking supplements.

What does riboflavin do to your body?

Riboflavin has many uses that support your growth and development. This includes helping your body create energy from the food you eat and supporting the function of your cells.

Is vitamin B12 the same as riboflavin?

Vitamin B12 is cobalamin, while riboflavin is vitamin B2. They both help your body get energy and are both part of a B vitamin complex.

What are the symptoms of a vitamin B2 deficiency?

Deficiency in vitamin B2 can contribute to anemia and a swollen throat or tongue, among other symptoms. You may also have other nutritional deficiencies.

Who shouldn’t take riboflavin?

Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, is commonly found in many foods, and many people get enough of it from their diet. People typically don’t need to take vitamin B2 supplements unless they have a specific health condition or diet that affects their body’s ability to produce or obtain this essential vitamin.

Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, is necessary for essential body functions that support your growth, development, and energy production.

Many people get enough through their diet. However some people, including athletes following vegetarian diets and people following vegan diets, may need to use supplements to get the daily recommended intake.

If you don’t get enough riboflavin or other B vitamins from your diet, B-complex supplements may help.