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Vitamin B2 Riboflavin: How Essential Is It?

Vitamin B2, Riboflavin is a micronutrient that is quickly absorbed in the body. It is a necessary substance for the metabolism of flavoproteins including cofactors FMN and FAD. Riboflavin is essential in the production of energy from the metabolism of ketones, fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

Vitamin B2 can be considered toxic to the body when large doses are injected. On the other hand, when it is ingested through the mouth, dangerous amounts cannot be absorbed because it has a low solubility. Fortunately, at doses that are nutritionally relevant, the excess is just excreted with the urine.

Riboflavin or Vitamin B2 is readily available in most green leafy vegetables, legumes, cheese, milk, yeast, almonds, rock lobsters and liver. Unfortunately, when they are exposed to light, Riboflavin is destroyed. It is also naturally occurring in bananas, asparagus, chard, okra, eggs, fish and yogurt.

Aside from being one of the vitamins needed by the body, Riboflavin is also used to color food, imparting the color yellow to yellow-orange. It is also used to fortify several types of food including pastas, breakfast cereals, processed cheese, infant food, energy drinks, fruit drinks, sauces and vitamin enriched products. Most vitamin supplements even contain Vitamin B2 together with other multivitamins, frequently in higher doses than what is recommended for the average person. Rarely is Riboflavin seen in liquid products because of its low water solubility so riboflavin-5’-phosphate is used, which is another form of Vitamin B2 that is more soluble yet also more expensive.

Riboflavin is also being synthesized for mass production through various microorganisms. This includes certain types of bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis and Corynebacterium ammoniagenes as well as fungi like Candida famata, Candida flaveri and Ashbya gossypii. These organisms are genetically modified into increase production of Riboflavin as well as antibiotic resistance markers wherein the Riboflavin produced is used to fortify food and animal feed.

Since Riboflavin is easily removed when most healthy people urinate, it is common to have a deficiency especially if the diet is lacking in it. But sometimes, a serious deficiency in riboflavin results due to the inability of the cells to absorb it into the intestines. It may also be due to a marked increase in the removal of Vitamin B2 in the urine. This is usually seen with a deficiency of other vitamins. Symptoms of a deficiency of Riboflavin called ariboflavinosis are red and cracked lips, swelling of the lining of the oral mucosa and tongue, angular cheilitis which are cracks that occur at the mouth corners, and sometimes, pharyngitis or laryngitis. When the skin dries up and scales, it may also be due to a lack of Riboflavin. Iron deficiency anemia can also result from a deficiency of Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin.

Even though a minor vitamin, Vitamin B2 Riboflavin is still essential to the body in its performance of the normal processes in the body. Therefore, a balanced diet should always be had to prevent problems in vitamin deficiencies.