Part of the B group of vitamins, vitamin B2 (or riboflavin) is important for producing energy and is needed for ensuring our nervous system works properly. It’s also essential for healthy eyesight, skin and red blood cells, and can help prevent us feeling tired.
What happens if I don’t get enough?
The most obvious signs of a vitamin B2 deficiency are skin problems, especially scaly, dry and flaky patches around the nose and cracks around the mouth. Some people also experience a sore tongue and have bloodshot eyes that feel as though they have grit in them.
Riboflavin is one of the few B vitamins that certain groups of people have low intakes of – in particular, teenagers (21% of 11 to 18-year-old girls and 9% of 11 to 18-year-old boys have exceptionally low intakes, putting them at risk of a deficiency). In adults, 12% of women and 5% of men fail to get enough vitamin B2 in their diets. Fortunately, though, a full-blown deficiency is rare as the body is very good at conserving and re-using its store of this nutrient.
How much do I need each day?
The Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) for vitamin B2, which you’ll see on food labels, is 1.4mg. But there are more detailed guidelines in the UK for vitamin B2 needs at specific ages and stages in life:
The main sources
Offal is loaded with vitamin B2, but it’s also present in a whole host of more everyday foods. Top choices to ensure you get enough include eggs, fish, meat, poultry, milk and other dairy products, as well as fortified breakfast cereals.
Vitamin B2 and migraine prevention
Studies have found that taking a high-dose (400mg) supplement of vitamin B2 each day can help to prevent migraines. However, this doesn’t seem to have an effect on the amount of pain or duration of the migraine if you do get one. If you’re a regular sufferer and are keen to give the supplement a go, discuss it with your GP beforehand.
The link between vitamin B2 and cataracts
A poor intake of vitamin B2 has been linked to an increased risk of cataracts. Taking a B2 supplement together with vitamin B3 (niacin) has been shown to help protect against this eye complaint.
Vitamin B2 as an antioxidant boost
Like vitamins A, C and E, vitamin B2 is an antioxidant, so it can help protect cells from damage that can lead to major health problems, such as cancer or heart disease.
Related article: Why we need vitamin B3