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Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) - Deficiency Risk and Symptoms

2 min read

Nutrient Name

Vitamin B2 - otherwise known as Riboflavin

Potential for deficiency

Very Common

A Vitamin B2 deficiency can happen due to numerous factors, such as over-dieting, abusing alcohol, liver disorders, and kidney dialysis.  The elderly, the chronically ill and alcoholics are groups who may be especially susceptible to riboflavin deficiency. Women who take birth control pills may also benefit from supplementation - the body's ability to absorb riboflavin is believed to be reduced when taking birth control pills. Riboflavin deficiency is particularly widespread among alcoholics because chronic alcohol abuse lowers the quantity of Vitamin B2 (and other nutrients such as Vitamin B1) that is absorbed by the body. 

What does Vitamin B2 do?

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) is one of 8 in the B-Vitamin family. Just like Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) It is involved in vital metabolic processes in the body, and is necessary for energy production and normal cell function and growth. We know that Vitamin B2 helps support adrenal function, helps calm and maintain a healthy nervous system, and facilitate key metabolic processes, including helping to turn food into energy. Riboflavin is also important to help maintain normal vision and normal red blood cells.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirms that clear health benefits have been established for the dietary intake of Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) in contributing to: 

  • normal energy-yielding metabolism
  • normal metabolism of iron in the body
  • the maintenance of normal skin and mucous membranes
  • the maintenance of normal red blood cells
  • the maintenance of normal vision
  • the protection of cell constituents from oxidative damage
  • the maintenance of the normal function of the nervous system
  • the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

Food Sources

Whole grains, milk, cheese,eggs, mushrooms, dark green vegetables (particularly broccoli, spinach and asparagus), meats, liver (and other organ meats), fish and poultry.

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) is a water-soluble vitamin and as such, it is unlikely to reach toxic levels. There is little danger of riboflavin toxicity when it is taken orally. 

Symptoms of deficiency

  • Weakness,
  • Throat swelling/soreness
  • Swollen tongue
  • Skin cracking (including cracked corners of the mouth)
  • Dermatitis
  • Anaemia
  • Blurred vision and itching, watering, sore, or bloodshot eyes
  • Eyes becoming light-sensitive and easily fatigued
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.