Vitamin B2, also known as Riboflavin, is a member of the B vitamin group. The B vitamins as a whole are considered by many as the “energy” vitamins, and though they do not DIRECTLY provide the body with energy they are a vital and necessary component of the breakdown of food and energy production. Riboflavin is absorbed into the body in its free form and then converted to its two coenzyme derivatives, Flavin mononucleotide (FMN) and Flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD). A variety of chemical reactions depend on these coenzymes, and Bio-Tech’s unique, high-dose formula providing 400 mg of riboflavin is used by many to maintain ample stores within the body.
Though it is commonly believed that riboflavin needs are easily met through the diets of most people, emerging evidence suggests that riboflavin deficiency, also known as ariboflavinosis, is becoming increasingly prevalent in certain population groups. Recent National Diet and Nutrition Surveys of the United Kingdom revealed that biochemical ribose deficiency is prevalent in free-living elderly people and adolescent girls (2). Diets with little or no meat, dairy, and whole grain products are unlikely to provide adequate riboflavin and may lead to deficiency. Symptoms of riboflavin deficiency include soreness of the throat, swollen mouth and throat, cheilosis (cracked or sore lips), glossitis (red, glossy tongue), and angular stomatitis (sores at the corners of the mouth), as well as seborrheic dermatitis, anemia, and neuropathy. Severe, prolonged deficiency may lead to protein and DNA damage, negative effects on the cell cycle, and reduced synthesis of certain micronutrients.
Groups at Risk of Riboflavin Inadequacy
According to the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements
- Vegetarian athletes
- Pregnant and lactating women and their infants
- People who are vegan and/or consume little milk
- People with Brown-Vialetto-Van Laere Syndrome
The human body produces the majority of its energy from reduction-oxidation reactions; these reactions involve the transfer of electrons between molecules involved in different cycles of metabolism. The coenzyme form of riboflavin, FAD, is a key oxidizing agent in two of the three main pathways for nutrient breakdown and energy production, the Krebs cycle and the electron transport chain. These pathways take place within the mitochondria which is widely known as the “Power House” of the cell. Without adequate riboflavin, this “power house” would be unable to function properly.
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers within the brain that strongly effect brain health and mental well-being. Certain neurotransmitters, including dopamine, are metabolized by monoamine oxidase, an enzyme dependent on FAD, the coenzyme form of riboflavin. Adequate riboflavin levels in the body may help certain individuals maintain mental clarity and a healthy mood.
As well as being a vital player in the metabolism of macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates), riboflavin is involved in the metabolism of several micronutrients within the body:
- Synthesis of Pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (PLP), the active form of vitamin B6
PLP is involved with more than 100 enzyme with functions in amino acid metabolism and synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. PLP also affects steroid hormone activity and gene expression.
- Synthesis of 5-methyl THF, the active form of folate
Folate is most widely known for its roles in preventing neural tube defects. Folate deficiency during pregnancy drastically increases the risk for birth defects such as spina bifida and other neural tube defects. Aside from its roles in fetal growth and development, folate has a wide range of functions within the body, including metabolism of proteins, production of energy and red blood cells, and epigenetic mechanisms which help regulate gene expression.
- Synthesis of vitamin B3 (Niacin) from tryptophan
Niacin has been widely known for its role in lipid metabolism since the mid-to-late 1900s and is used my many to help maintain normal levels without the side effects of drugs. In addition to this, niacin is vital to around 200 dehydrogenase enzymes in the body and is heavily involved in food and micronutrient metabolism.
- Reduction of glutathione
Glutathione is a major antioxidant with the ability to reduce harmful peroxides that pose a threat to DNA, proteins, and fatty acids throughout the body. Glutathione also functions as a carrier for amino acids.
Though the exact mechanisms are not clear, studies have shown what riboflavin plays a role in iron metabolism. The protein ferritin is the storage form of iron in the body, and the enzymes that release iron from this form for use are flavin-dependent and negatively impacted by riboflavin deficiency. A recent study in the UK found that riboflavin supplementation in young women significantly improved hemoglobin status, supporting that there is a positive relationship between riboflavin and iron status in humans(2).
Vitamins Instrumental to Energy Production
B2 (riboflavin) | B1 (Thiamin) | B3 (Niacin) | CoQ10 | B12 | B6
- Gropper, Sareen Annora Stepnick., Jack L. Smith, and James L. Groff.Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Australia: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2009. Print.
- Powers H, Hill M, Mushtag S, Dainty J, Majsak-Newman G, Williams A. Correcting a marginal deficiency improves hematologic status in young women in the United Kingdom (RIBOFEM). Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93:1274-84.
- “Riboflavin.”— Health Professional Fact Sheet. NIH, May 2015. Web. 11 Sept. 2015.
- Powers H. Riboflavin (vitamin B-2) and health. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 77:1352-60.