Fact Checked By Allison Tallman, RDN
September 14, 2021
Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for many processes within the body (1).
Riboflavin is part of the eight essential nutrients, known as the vitamin B complex, that all play a role in many cellular processes.
Used by carbs, protein, and fat, riboflavin assists many bodily processes such as bone growth and red blood cell production.
It also plays an extensive role in brain health as it helps to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
It also can assist in decreasing severity and amount of migraines.
Due to its role, it’s important to understand why riboflavin supplementation may be beneficial for brain health and if you choose to supplement, how to implement supplementation into your daily routine.
We’ll discuss each of these but first, let’s discuss riboflavin and overall brain health.
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Riboflavin and brain health
Riboflavin promotes brain health in many different ways.
Research shows that riboflavin protects against neurotoxicity and has neuroprotective potential as a whole (2).
Neurotoxicity refers to the damage to our brain or our peripheral nervous system that is caused by toxins.
Having a nutrient such as riboflavin be neuroprotective can modify the course or prevent certain neurological disorders.
Riboflavin also reduces oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and neuroinflammation.
These mechanisms all help to reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Riboflavin and disease risk reduction
With the huge influence of neurological disorders on an individual’s life and quality of life, an understanding of how riboflavin supplementation can reduce or prevent many disease states is crucial.
Some of these include Alzheimer’s, dementia, and migraines. Individuals with high levels of homocysteine (hyperhomocysteine,) may benefit from riboflavin supplementation as riboflavin can help to reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood.
Homocysteine is an animal acid that assists your body in protein production.
High levels in one’s blood is problematic as it can increase risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia (3).
In its role to reduce total levels, riboflavin therefore helps to reduce these disease states.
Riboflavin also can also reduce migraines through its role in cellular energy production.
Many studies have demonstrated its efficacy and have deemed it as safe to reduce overall number of migraines and intensity of migraines (4).
Additionally, riboflavin can also reduce the effects of Parkinson’s disease.
One study showed that high doses of riboflavin promoted the recovery of motor functions within the individual (5).
Groups of risk of deficiency:
Although riboflavin is found in many foods, many groups are at risk of deficiency and might benefit from supplementation to better their health.
One study showed that elderly people are at risk of inadequate riboflavin due to overall poor food and nutritional intake.
The elderly population typically has a poor appetite or poor quality of diet and therefore may not consume adequate amounts.
Individuals who consume excess alcohol or utilize certain drugs may also be at risk of inadequate riboflavin levels due to the same issue of overall poor intake or quality of diet.
Some individuals have higher daily requirements of riboflavin and therefore may have trouble reaching adequate levels.
These groups include pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Vegetarians and vegans, or those who consume very little milk, are at risk of riboflavin deficiency as these populations have limited or no intakes of meat and dairy products.
Meat and dairy products are good sources of riboflavin, therefore putting these groups at risk.
Signs and symptoms of riboflavin deficiency include and are not limited to skin disorders, hair loss, reproductive disorders, sore throat, and itchy eyes. One may also have excess blood or edema of the mouth (5, 6).
Intake recommendations of riboflavin
Riboflavin can be found in many different foods such as grains, plants, and dairy products.
Individuals are recommended to consume sources of riboflavin each day as the body cannot store adequate amounts.
Research shows that adults who consume a variety of foods in their diet are likely to meet their daily riboflavin needs, however, many individuals may not and therefore require supplementation (7).
Some individuals may even choose to supplement their diet with additional riboflavin to see added benefits, such as those with chronic migraines.
Riboflavin as a supplement can be taken in many forms such as pill or capsule.
One of the most common doses as a stand-alone supplement is in a 400 mg dose.
Taking riboflavin supplements with food influences how much the body absorbs.
Riboflavin is essential to many functions within the body such as neuroprotection and reduction of oxidative stress, both of which contribute to promote brain health.
Riboflavin helps to decrease many disease states involving the brain such as Alzheimer’s and dementia and it can also be utilized to decrease migraines.
Some populations are especially at risk of deficiency such as the elderly or pregnant women.
Those with high levels of homocysteine in the blood or with chronic migraines may benefit from the health functions of riboflavin supplementation.
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