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Riboflavin Requirements and Dietary Sources

Vitamin Guide

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Updated July 16, 2014

dry beans and riboflavin

Dry beans are rich in riboflavin.

Sanja Gjenero

Riboflavin, or vitamin B-2, is a member of the water-soluble family of B-Complex vitamins. It's required for glucose metabolism so your body can produce energy from carbohydrates. It' also needed for normal red blood cell production and general body growth.

Riboflavin also works as an antioxidant to help prevent free radical damage to your cells. This damage can come from pollution, smoking or other exposures, and also happens as a result of normal metabolism. 

Deficiency is rare. Riboflavin is found naturally in lean meats, eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts, legumes, fortified breads and cereals, milk and dairy products. Fortified bread and cereals also contain riboflavin.

It's sensitive to light, so foods rich in riboflavin should not be stored in clear containers -- that's why milk is sold in opaque containers. Cooking doesn't destroy riboflavin.

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies has set the dietary reference intakes for riboflavin based on age and gender. These DRIs are equal to the amount that a typical healthy person would need per day, so if you have any medical conditions, you should speak to your doctor about your vitamin and mineral needs.

Dietary Reference Intakes

Males

1 to 3 years: 0.5 milligrams per day
4 to 8 years: 0.6 milligrams per day
9 to 13 years: 0.9 milligrams per day
14 + years: 1.3 milligrams per day

Females

1 to 3 years: 0.5 milligrams per day
4 to 8 years: 0.6 milligrams per day
9 to 13 years: 0.9 milligrams per day
14 to 18 years: 1.0 milligrams per day
18+ years: 1.1 milligrams per day
Women who are pregnant: 1.4 milligrams per day
Women who are breastfeeding: 1.6 milligrams per day

Riboflavin intake is usually adequate in a normal diet so supplementation should not be necessary. Riboflavin supplements have been suggested for prevention of cataracts and for treating or prevention migraine headaches, but more research is needed to see if it truly is beneficial.

Riboflavin does not seem to cause any serious side effects, and consumption is generally considered safe, even at high supplemental doses. The Institute of Medicine has not set tolerable upper limits for riboflavin intake from dietary supplements.

But some sources say riboflavin doses above 10 milligrams per day may cause eye damage from the sun. Talk to your health care provider if you're thinking of taking large doses of riboflavin or any other vitamin or mineral.

In addition, very high doses may cause itching, numbness, burning feeling of the skin and sensitivity to light.

Smaller doses of riboflavin, like what's found in a B-complex vitamin or even a multivitamin will turn your urine a bright yellow. 

Taking any one of the B vitamins for a long period of time can result in an imbalance of other important B vitamins. For this reason, you may want to take a B-complex vitamin, which includes all the B vitamins.

Also Known As: vitamin B-2

Sources:

Dietitians of Canada. "Food Sources of Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)." Accessed July 15, 2014. http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Riboflavin-(Vitamin-B2).aspx.

Institutes of Medicine of the National Academies. "Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamins." Accessed July 15, 2014. http://iom.edu/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/DRI_Vitamins.pdf

University of Maryland Medical Center. "Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)." Accessed July 15, 2014. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b2-riboflavin.

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