Vitamin B-2: What Does It Do?

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on July 27, 2016Written by Elea Carey

Vitamin Watch: What Does B2 Do?

Overview

Vitamin B-2, or riboflavin, is naturally in some foods. It’s present in other foods in synthetic form. Vitamin B-2 and the 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.

These functions include the breakdown of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. You may have experienced an energy boost from taking supplements containing B vitamins.

Getting enough vitamin B-2

Eat a healthy and balanced diet to get enough vitamin B-2. It’s present at the levels most people need in dairy products, including cottage cheese and milk.

Other sources include:

  • egg yolks
  • red meat
  • dark meat
  • salmon
  • tuna
  • soybeans
  • almonds
  • grains, such as wheat

It’s sensitive to light and perishable, however. Grain products may not have much naturally occurring riboflavin by the time they get to your table. This is why it’s sometimes added in processing.

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

Deficiency is still a risk

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 anemia, 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 increase your chances of preeclampsia, which involves dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy. The most severe complication of preeclampsia is a lack of blood flow to the placenta.

Riboflavin deficiency is rare in places where people have access to fresh foods or supplemental vitamins. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing the symptoms of riboflavin deficiency. You may actually have a problem absorbing nutrients. Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease are other possible causes of symptoms associated with riboflavin deficiency.

Getting too much vitamin B-2

The primary risk of excess B-2 is damage to the liver. However, excess riboflavin, or riboflavin toxicity, is rare. You’d have to eat almost impossibly large quantities 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.

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