IMPORTANT: The information on this site should never be used to self medicate or to self diagnose. Always contact your health care provider before using any kind of supplementation or making any extreme change in diet.
Having just been told that he needed more riboflavin in his diet, Rick had ordered a mushroom and spinach omelet for lunch.
Lunch, however, seemed to be taking a long time. Sitting on the sunlit patio outside the restaurant Rick gazed around at the people seated at the array of tables. One, in particular, caught his eye. Her long dark hair was swept back past her shoulders gracefully cascading down her back. She had large, captivating eyes and perfectly proportioned features. As her lunch was served she looked up at the waitress and smiled. “Beautiful, I’d like to get to know her,” he thought. Then he looked at what she had ordered.
She had begun to pick away at a chef’s salad while sipping on a glass of carbonated water. For the first time, he noticed how skinny she was.
“Well, not much point in getting to know her. She might be beautiful now but not for long. In a few years she’ll probably be scrawny and emaciated and be dying of some horrible disease caused by malnutrition.”
Finally, lunch arrived and Rick began to enjoy his mushroom omelet which would give him that much needed riboflavin.
So what is riboflavin and why does Rick need to get some of it? What’s the girl on the diet missing out on?
WHAT IS RIBOFLAVIN (B2)?
Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin readily absorbed by the body. It plays a key role in keeping us healthy. Although it is very sensitive to light which rapidly destroys it, it remains reasonably stable when heated.
Riboflavin is often used as a food colouring and is yellow or yellow-orange in colour. Baby foods, cereals, fruit drinks, pastas, sauces, processed cheese, enriched milk products, and some energy drinks are often fortified with riboflavin.
It is a major component of two cofactors or two partners called coenzymes. A coenzyme is a chemical compound, that is not a protein, that is bound to a protein and is needed so the protein can function. The coenzymes that use riboflavin are called flavocoenzymes and attach themselves to a group of proteins called enzymes. Enzymes that use flavocoenzymes are called flavoproteins.
WHAT DOES RIBOFLAVIN (B2) DO FOR US?
1. Flavocoenzymes are totally necessary for the metabolizing of the three macro nutrients — fats, proteins and carbohydrates — into energy for our bodies.
2. As a flavocoenzyme riboflavin works with enzymes to help the antioxidant glutathione in protecting our cells from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress happens when electrons are transferred from one molecule to another to form a new substance. The free radical or the molecule that’s had its electron taken starts looking for a replacement from another molecule to complete its compliment thus altering the status of the second molecule leaving room for that molecule to mutate.
In the cells both flavoproteins, FMN and FAD, partner with enzymes to become flavocoenzymes. Once in the liver FMN is incorporatevd into flavoproteins or it is changed into FAD (Flavin Adenine Dinucleotide) and then made into flavoproteins.
3. Vitamin B2 helps other enzymes to produce uric acid. Uric acid is one of the most powerful antioxidants in our blood. A deficiency in riboflavin can cause a lowering of uric acid levels in the blood.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DON’T GET ENOUGH RIBOFLAVIN (B2)?
Lactose intolerance, alcoholism, anorexia nervosa, adrenal gland problems and hypothyroidism are all reasons for getting enough riboflavin. These problems either impair utilization as in the case of alcoholism and hypothyroidism or create a deficiency. People who are very active physically also need slightly increased amounts of riboflavin.
1. Riboflavin is always being removed from the body in urine so not getting enough is common in people who are nutritionally challenged. Unfortunately when riboflavin is deficient so are its flavoproteins. Because flavoproteins help metabolize vitamin B6, niacin and folic acid, the work of these vitamins in the body is also adversely affected.
2. One other issue that affects our bodies because of riboflavin deficiency is that of iron metabolism. Humans need riboflavin to increase hemoglobin levels in the bloodstream a necessity for a healthy body.
3. Ariboflavinosis is the name given to riboflavin deficiency. Cracked lips, sore throat, inflammation of the lining of the mouth and tongue, dry, scaly skin, fluid in the mucous membranes, itchy bloodshot eyes, and iron deficiency anemia are among the problems that plague us when we don’t get enough riboflavin. These problems do not occur immediately because the levels of riboflavin in our bodies are tightly regulated so if you find that you’re beginning to experience them you really need to take action.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET TOO MUCH RIBOFLAVIN (B2)?
Apparently we can’t get too much B2 from food or supplements so eat and be happy. There are no known toxic or adverse effects unless it is administered by injection. If too much is administered by injection it can be toxic but not very many of us go around injecting riboflavin into our veins! I hope.
WHERE DO WE GET RIBOFLAVIN (B2)?
Ribose means sugar and flavin means yellow in Latin. (Just in case you were wondering.) Riboflavin derivatives are well known for their use as food colouring. They give vitamin pills, food supplements and many processed foods a yellow or orange colouring. Attractive to the eye but overkill for processed foods in my opinion. Nothing says good taste like natural colouring.
Yeast extract is very rich in vitamin B2. Liver and kidney are also rich sources. Although, for those among us who find organ meats revolting; wheat bran, eggs, meat, milk, and cheese along with leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, mushrooms and almonds are also important sources. Cereal grains contain relatively low concentrations of flavins.
The milling of cereals destroys up to 60% of vitamin B2 so white flour is enriched in many wheat growing countries. The enrichment of bread and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals with supplementary riboflavin helps replace the loss. This is particularly important in countries where meat and fresh vegetables are in short supply but refined grains are being eaten and used as a staple.
The RDA for men is 1.3 mg per day and for women, it is 1.1 per day. If you get a well balanced diet you will have no problem with getting a healthy amount of riboflavin in your diet.
Sadly for the girl with the long dark hair and beautiful eyes she never did get to meet Rick and that was a shame because Rick is a really great guy; smart, strong, full of energy. Oh well, so much for pale salads and carbonated water. Rick found someone else; a strong, smart woman with long dark hair and beautiful eyes who loved good food.