Vitamin B2 - What Does Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Do For Kids?
Posted on June 04 2021,
Vitamin B2, commonly known as riboflavin, is a yellow-colored vitamin that belongs to the group of B-complex vitamins. It is water-soluble, which means that it does not get stored in the body. Instead, it dissolves in water and any excess amount leaves the body through urine. Because there are no reserves of this vitamin kept in the body, we have to consume an adequate amount daily to regulate our body functions. (1)
What does B2 vitamin do? Vitamin B2 is an integral component of two major coenzymes in the body, flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) and flavin mononucleotide (FAM), which is why it plays an important role in energy production. Many take vitamin B2 for migraines, helping with symptom management and prevention. Vitamin B2 has also been found to treat common symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder, reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood, and it is which vitamin is good for eyes, preventing vision loss due to cataracts.
No significant risks of taking riboflavin are known because it is a water-soluble vitamin and any excess in the body typically exits through urine. Riboflavin deficiency can lead to anemia, dermatological problems, low energy and difficulties with neurological functioning. You can also find vitamin B2 in foods, including meat, dairy, eggs, leafy green vegetables and other fortified foods. It is also available in the form of supplements, which might be the preferred option for those with dietary restrictions or underlying conditions, or children who are picky eaters. (2)
How Does Riboflavin Function in Your Child’s Body?
Almost 90% of the dietary riboflavin is found in the form of flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD), and the remaining 10% in esters and glycosides. A major amount of vitamin B2 is absorbed in the proximal part of the small intestine, and a little is absorbed by your kidneys, liver, and heart. Your body can produce this vitamin by the bacteria present in your large intestine, depending on your dietary patterns. A diet rich in vegetables as compared to meat products can enhance the production of riboflavin by your intestinal microflora. (3)
Vitamin B2 works in combination with other B vitamins and performs several important functions in your child’s body, most importantly supporting healthy growth and development. Riboflavin largely helps in the breakdown of macronutrients, such as fats, carbohydrates, and protein. This is why you might notice your child have a boost of energy after taking vitamin B2 supplements. Riboflavin also promotes the development and use of blood cells, especially red blood cells, as well as the proper functioning of the lining of the digestive system and other vital organs. Additionally, riboflavin regulates different reactions in your child’s body, like assisting the conversion of tryptophan (amino acid) into niacin (vitamin B3). It helps maintain optimal brain functions and normal levels of homocysteine, which is an amino acid in the blood. (3)
Why Do Children Need Riboflavin?
Riboflavin provides many potential benefits for different medical conditions in both adults and children. For example, it plays a promising role in treating migraines, improving symptoms of Autism in children, and preventing cancer, seizures, and cataracts.
So, what does riboflavin do for the body? Here are some health benefits of vitamin B2:
- Treats migraine headaches
- Treats symptoms of Autism
- Reduces high levels of homocysteine in the blood
- Prevents cataracts
Treats migraines: Migraines are the most severe form of headache, causing throbbing pain and intense pulling in one area of your head. When a migraine occurs, your mitochondria (an important organelle of your cells known as the cell powerhouse) do not function properly. Research reveals that riboflavin plays an important role in maintaining the function of mitochondria in brain cells, which ultimately prevents migraines.
How does riboflavin help migraines? One study was conducted to evaluate the possible effects of riboflavin for migraines in adults and children. In the study, a random selection of 41 children (aged 13) and 55 adults took 200 mg/day and 400 mg/day (respectively) of Riboflavin for 3 to 6 months. The results showed that riboflavin significantly reduced the intensity and frequency of migraines in both children and adults over 3 months of age. Moreover, the Canadian Headache Society suggests that consuming 400 mg of riboflavin per day helps in preventing the prevalence of migraines. Thus, adults and children might consider taking vitamin B2 for migraines as an initial form of treatment, after consulting with a doctor to determine the vitamin B2 dose for migraines. (2)
Treats Autism: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder causing one to experience difficulty in communicating and interacting with others. A child with Autism might have particular difficulty with behavior, cognitive functioning and learning processes. The amount of dicarboxylic acid (abnormal organic acids) in urine provides information about the energy production, metabolism, and nutritional status of a person with Autism. Health experts believe that the supplementation of manganese, riboflavin, and vitamin B6 is effective in reducing the excretion of dicarboxylic acid from the urine of a child with Autism. (4)
In one study, 31 children with Autism were given riboflavin (20 mg per day), vitamin B6 (500mg per day), and manganese (200 mg per day) for 3 months. Their urine was tested for amounts of dicarboxylic acid before and after supplementation, and the results indicated that the supplementation of these vitamins and minerals significantly reduced the excretion of dicarboxylic acid through the urine. (4)
Reduces high level of homocysteine in the blood: Riboflavin effectively converts homocysteine into methionine. Without the required nutrients, this process cannot occur and ultimately leads to an abnormally high level of homocysteine in the bloodstream that can cause clot formation. This condition occurs in people who do not consume an adequate amount of riboflavin in their diet. Taking anti-seizure medication in excess or over prolonged periods can also contribute to abnormal homocysteine levels. The research revealed that people who consumed a recommended dose of riboflavin for 12 weeks experienced a 40% decline in their homocysteine level. It has also been found that when homocysteine levels are raised by anti-seizure medications, the consumption of riboflavin in combination with vitamin B6 and folic acid can reduce homocysteine levels by 25%. (5)
Prevents cataracts: Vitamin B2 is essential for your eye health. Several studies suggest that riboflavin can prevent cataracts, a condition that causes blurred vision due to lens damage in your eye. In one double-blind study, individuals with cataracts were given supplements of niacin and riboflavin, and their vision was significantly improved. (2)
What Are the Symptoms of B2 Deficiency?
Riboflavin is not stored in your body, so it is important to consume the adequate amount daily through diet and supplementation. Here are some common reasons for riboflavin deficiency:
- Inadequate consumption of riboflavin through diet. The major dietary source of this vitamin includes organ meats such as liver and kidney, low-fat dairy, eggs, dark leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, and asparagus), and fortified bread, cereals, and grain products.
- Some endocrine abnormalities can also lead to riboflavin deficiency, such as insufficient production of thyroid hormones.
- Certain malabsorption diseases in which the body is not able to absorb nutrients can also cause riboflavin deficiency, such as celiac disease (gluten intolerance), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and diarrhea. (2)
Riboflavin deficiency is rare in developed and well-nourished societies, while its deficiency is common in developing countries due to inadequate intake of meat and milk. The major clinical symptoms of vitamin B2 deficiency in children are:
- Impaired neurological functions
- Low energy production
- Dermatological problems
Impaired neurological functions: Children suffering from riboflavin deficiency experience impaired brain function, such as irritability and lack of concentration. According to research, riboflavin-derived coenzymes are important in the metabolism of essential fatty acids in your brain cells. Thus, its deficiency affects the cognitive abilities of your child. (2)
Low energy production: The deficiency of riboflavin can make your child feel dull and weak. This vitamin is important in the metabolism of macronutrients that yield energy. One study showed that nutritional screenings of low-energy children reflect a deficiency of B vitamins, especially of riboflavin. (2)
Dermatological problems: Several studies reveal that children suffering from riboflavin deficiency show signs of skin changes. Ariboflavinosis is a condition of riboflavin deficiency that can cause several dermatological problems, including the following: cheilosis (lip sores and cracking), angular stomatitis (cracked corners of the mouth), magenta tongue (a severe form of riboflavin deficiency, in which there is inflammation of the tongue), alopecia (excessive hair loss), swelling of the eye’s blood vessels, and seborrheic dermatitis (formation of red and scaly patches on the skin). (6)
Anemia: Riboflavin plays a fundamental role in the production of red blood cells. Research has shown that children with anemia exhibit significant riboflavin deficiency in nutritional screenings. A national survey was conducted in the United Kingdom to evaluate the riboflavin status in school-aged children. In the survey, 2127 children were examined, and the results depicted that riboflavin deficiency increased with age. 59% deficiency was observed in children aged 4 to 6 years, 78% in children aged 7 to 10 years, and 95% in children aged 15 to 18 years. Moreover, the prevalence of deficiency was more in females than males, and this was due to inadequate milk intake. Once the deficient children were given riboflavin supplements (2 to 4 mg/day) for 8 weeks, the results showed significant improvement in their hematological status with increased production of red blood cells.
How Much Riboflavin Do Your Kids Need per Day?
The National Academies of Sciences published the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), which defines the optimal amount of nutrients required daily. Vitamin B2 Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for adults and children are included in this reference. Amounts may differ between males and females as well as for people who are pregnant and lactating, and you can see the daily recommended amounts listed below. It is always recommended that you consult with a doctor or health professional to ensure appropriate and safe amounts for your specific needs. (7)(2)
|Age||Daily Recommended Amount in milligrams (mg) for males||Daily Recommended Amount in milligrams (mg) for females|
|0-6 months*||0.3 mg||
|19-50 years||1.3 mg||1.1 mg|
|51+ years||1.3 mg||1.1 mg|
*Adequate Intake (AI)
Should You Give Riboflavin Supplements to Your Kids?
If your kid is not receiving an adequate amount of riboflavin through diet, then supplements are a great option. Riboflavin supplements are typically available in the form of capsules, tablets, and liquids. Riboflavin can be found in multivitamins, like gummy vitamins formulated for children and adults to get their daily recommended nutrients in a couple bites. Vitamin B2 is also available in the form of injections, which directly supplies riboflavin to body muscles and might be used in more severe cases of deficiency. Ophthalmologists typically use vitamin B2 shots and eye drops to treat eye infections. (8)
Riboflavin in Foods
Foods with riboflavin are organ meat (liver and kidney), milk, eggs, and lean meat. Among vegetables, dark leafy greens contain a good amount of riboflavin. Cereals and grains fortified with riboflavin are also available in the United States and many countries. The major dietary sources of vitamin B2 in U.S females and males are milk and other dairy products (yogurt and cheese), ready-to-eat cereals, and mixed foods containing meat as a major ingredient.
Riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin, so it is recommended that one avoid boiling foods that contain a good amount of this vitamin. Microwaving or steaming are alternative methods to preparing these foods in order to prevent the loss of riboflavin through the cooking process.
So, what food is high in vitamin B2? Below is a list of foods that contains healthy amounts of riboflavin. (2)
|Food Name||Serving Size||Milligrams (mg) Per Serving|
|Beef organs, pan-fried||3 oz||2.9 mg|
|Cereals fortified with riboflavin||1-2 oz||1.3 mg|
|Oats fortified with riboflavin, cooked with water||1 cup||1.1 mg|
|Salmon||6 oz||0.8 mg|
|Plain and fat-free yogurt||1 cup||0.6 mg|
|Low-fat milk||1 cup||0.5 mg|
|Beef, grilled||3 oz||0.4 mg|
|Dry roasted almonds||1 oz||0.3 mg|
|Swiss cheese||3 oz||0.3 mg|
|Chicken, skinless||3 oz||0.2 mg|
|Quinoa, cooked||1 cup||0.2 mg|
|Plain bagel||1 med. bagel||0.2 mg|
|Spinach, raw||1 cup||0.1 mg|
Does Vitamin B2 Have Side Effects?
Vitamin B2 is safe when ingested mainly through a healthy diet of natural whole foods and when taking the suggested daily amount by supplementation, like vitamins. But, can too much vitamin B2 be harmful? Excessive intake of this vitamin can cause diarrhea or may turn the color of urine yellow-orange. For children, the Food and Nutrition Board for the National Institute of Medicine suggests that the oral intake of riboflavin is safe. Riboflavin is not known to cause toxicity when taken in high amounts, as it is water-soluble and therefore not stored in the body. It is always recommended that one follow science-backed guidelines for the appropriate daily use of riboflavin and consult with a medical or health professional, especially when considering supplementation alongside other medical treatments or medications. (9)(10)
Riboflavin is an essential B vitamin that plays several important roles in your body. Above, we learned that benefits of riboflavin include treatment of migraines, symptoms of Autism and high levels of homocysteine in the blood that can lead to clot formation. Vitamin B2 deficiency can cause many health problems in children, such as irritability, low energy, skin problems, and poor cognitive abilities. It is a water-soluble vitamin, so it is necessary to ensure daily intake of this vitamin, like finding vitamin B2 in foods, because any excess will not be stored in the body. This feature also prevents many risks from taking riboflavin because excess exits the body through urine. However, taking high amounts of vitamin B12 beyond what is recommended can cause uncomfortable side effects, like stomach pain and diarrhea.
Vitamin B2 can be found in natural whole foods, like meat, dairy, eggs, leafy green vegetables and other fortified foods. An easy way to ensure that your family is getting enough of this vitamin, especially for those who have dietary restrictions or other reasons that they are not eating a diversity of foods each day, is to take a daily multivitamin, B-complex, or riboflavin supplement. With underlying health conditions present, or other considerations like pregnancy, it is always recommended that you consult with your doctor or another health care professional to receive nutritional guidance and support.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not use this information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.