Vitamin B2 Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms and Effects


What is vitamin B2?

Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin is a water soluble vitamin found in animal and plant tissue. In addition to that, it is a precursor of the coenzymes Flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) and Flavin mononucleotide (FMN). Like any other vitamin in the body, it has an important role to play in ensuring that the human body is healthy. It is part of the large family of B vitamins that the body needs. It is therefore that when we decide to diet, that we involve the significant B2 vitamin so that we can boost our health and enjoy a healthy life.

Uses of vitamin B2

Vitamin B2 plays not only one but multiple roles in the body. Each one of its uses in the body is significant and it helps in sustaining our overall health. So what are the most common uses of vitamin B2?

  • It is involved in metabolic processes. Metabolic processes involve breaking down of foods to provide the body with energy. Vitamin B2 acts as a facilitator in these metabolic processes and also aids in normal cell function as well as the growth of the cells.
  • It is a complementary vitamin to other complex B vitamins. This is because it helps in their chemical changes that give them a purpose in the human anatomy. it also works well with other nutrients e.g. zinc,
  • It contains properties of an antioxidant which give it the power to fight against ailments such as cancer and lowering levels of cholesterol in the body. It inhibits cholesterol from building up by controlling the proliferation of harmful molecules in the body known as free radicals.
  • Helps in relieving migraines in children and adults as it contains a prophylactic agent that helps in decreasing occurrence of headaches and their intensity.
  • Other illnesses that the vitamin B2 helps prevent include; anemia, anorexia, autosomal recessive disorder, depression, neonatal jaundice, cataracts, migraines and cognitive function.

Signs and symptoms

Vitamin B2 deficiency (ariboflavinosis) is as a result of low levels of the vitamin in the body. This often occurs when we don’t consume foods that contain high volumes of the vitamin thus neglecting the body. If you have a diet that consists of say, 0.5-0.6 mg concentration of vitamin B2 per day, then there is a likelihood that you are depriving your body of the important ingredient and in time, deficiency problems will catch up. Vitamin B2 deficiency is common among the elderly, alcoholic, and people suffering from chronic diseases.  The main signs and symptoms of riboflavin deficiency include;

  • Weakness and fatigue: Since vitamin B2 is associated with metabolism and production of energy for the body when in low levels, it affects the rate of metabolism, which indefinitely affects energy production.
  • Throat soreness or swelling
  • Cracked skin
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Swollen tongue
  • Dermatitis
  • Nerve damage
  • Anemia

Other advanced symptoms may include;

  • Blurred vision and itching
  • Cleft lip and palate deformities
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Congenital heart defects
  • malignancy
  • Watery eyes
  • Growth redundancy in infants
  • Eyes sensitivity to light

Effects of riboflavin deficiency

Riboflavin deficiency in the body has been associated with greater problems in the human body. The most common effects include;

  • Distorted pathways in the metabolism of other vitamins, folate, niacin, and iron. This often results in poor eyesight.
  • In pregnant women, vitamin B2 is known to cause preeclampsia, which may graduate to eclampsia. Preeclampsia is the increase in blood pressure, edema and proteins in urine. In intense cases, it can lead to excessive bleeding which can lead to death. This is because riboflavin deficiency in women affects their reproduction system, growth, and repair of body tissues.
  • Development of cataracts as oxidative stress leads to opacification of the eye lens.

Causes of vitamin B2 deficiency

  • The main causes of vitamin B2 deficiency is an unbalanced diet that doesn’t contain enough foods with riboflavin.
  • Alcohol impairs the utilization of riboflavin in the body. Therefore, alcoholics are at a higher chance of suffering from vitamin B2 deficiency.
  • Anorexia, a poor eating habit. Anorexic people keep off food so that they can maintain a lean body. However, that makes them miss out on vital nutrients such as vitamin B2, which is important to the body. Lactose intolerant individuals are unprivileged because their stomachs cannot tolerate some of the key sources of riboflavin, i.e. dairy products.
  • Contraceptive pills. Women who take contraceptive pills are at high risk of obtaining vitamin B2 deficiency because the pills decrease the body’s ability to absorb the vitamin in the body.

The right amounts of riboflavin

Many people question themselves on the much riboflavin they need to consume in a day. Well, this is highly dependent on age, as, at different stages of life, the body needs different quantities of the vitamin. Here are the standard requirements for vitamin B2 intake on a daily basis:

For adults, the following intakes are required daily;

  • Females, 14-18 years: 1.0mg
  • Males, 14-18 years: 1.3mg
  • Females 18+ year: 1.1 mg
  • Males 18+ years: 1.3mg
  • Pregnant women: 1.4mg
  • Nursing mothers: 1.6mg

For infants, the following are the right amounts of vitamin B2 they should take to enhance their growth.

  • 0-6 months: 0.3mg
  • 7-12 months: 0.4mg
  • 1-3 years: 0.5mg
  • 4-8 years: 0.6mg
  • 9-13 years: 0.9mg

To acquire the right amounts of vitamin B2 in your body, you need to eat a balanced diet all the time. The main foods that are rich in vitamin B2 are; dairy products, eggs, meat, beans, fish, liver, poultry, fortified grains and cereals, nuts and dark greens.