Other Name(s):

vitamin B-2, lactoflavin

General Description:

Riboflavin is a member of the B family of vitamins (B Complex). Riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin and excess amounts are excreted through the kidneys. It makes the urine fluorescent yellow. Riboflavin is an important antioxidant. Like the other B vitamins, riboflavin plays an important role in energy production.

Riboflavin is one of a series of enzymes called flavoproteins. There are over 40 known flavoproteins, all playing important roles in the oxidation processes in the body that help create energy.

Medically Valid Uses:

Riboflavin is used to address deficiencies in diet, inadequate assimilation, some rare genetic defects that prevent the formation of specific flavoproteins and hormonal disorders. Riboflavin is also used, along with phototherapy (exposure to sunlight), to treat jaundice in newborns.

Unsubstantiated Claims:

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies. 

Riboflavin is believed to improve the health of the skin and increase energy. It is being investigated for its role in arthritis.

Riboflavin is claimed to prevent migraine headaches in some migraine sufferers. It cannot treat a migraine once it occurs, but may help to prevent it.

Recommended Intake:

How much riboflavin is needed depends on your caloric intake. Typically, requirements are 0.44 to 0.55 mg for every 1,000 calories of food consumed.

Riboflavin is available as a single entity in 25 mg, 50 mg and 100 mg tablets. It is available in many other multi-entity combinations (B Complex).

As indicated below, riboflavin is measured in milligrams. It is not currently supplied in International Units. The RDA is the Recommended Dietary Allowance



Infants (0 to 6 months)

0.4 mg

Infants (6 months to 1 year)

0.5 mg

Children (1 to 3 years)

0.8 mg

Children (4 to 6 years)

1.1 mg

Children (7 to 10 years)

1.2 mg

Boys (11 to 14 years)

1.5 mg

Boys (15 to 18 years)

1.8 mg

Men (19 to 50 years)

1.7 mg

Women (11 to 50 years)

1.3 mg

Men (51+ years)

1.4 mg

Women (51+ years)

1.2 mg

Pregnant women

1.8 mg

Breast-feeding women

1.7 mg


Food source

Nutrient content per 100 grams

Dried yeast

4.28 mg

Beef liver

2.9 mg

Chicken liver

2.5 mg


0.92 mg

Parmesan cheese

0.73 mg


0.55 mg

Cheddar cheese

0.46 mg


0.44 mg


0.35 mg


0.34 mg

Riboflavin is stable in heat when dry (and therefore does not need to be refrigerated), but degrades more easily when moist and heated. Because riboflavin is sensitive to light, foods containing riboflavin should be stored in light-resistant containers. For instance, up to 85 percent of the riboflavin in milk may be destroyed if exposed to sunlight.

Vegetables lose about 30 to 40 percent of their riboflavin during the cooking process.

There is an increased need for riboflavin resulting from a poor diet (inadequate milk or other animal products), irritable bowel syndrome or liver disease. Excessive consumption of alcohol also increases the need for riboflavin.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding may need to take vitamin supplements, but must consult a physician before doing so.

There is no specific disease or name associated with riboflavin deficiency. Riboflavin deficiency rarely occurs by itself but is more common in combination with other B-vitamin and protein deficiencies. Signs of deficiency are changes in the mucous membranes, skin, bone marrow and eyes.

Changes in the mucous membranes result in inflammation of the tongue (glossitis), inflammation of the lining of the mouth and throat, cracking and skin changes in the lips (cheilitis), and fissures at the corners of the mouth.

Changes in the skin include itching (pruritus), inflammation over the joints (especially in the creases) and seborrheic dermatitis.

Bone marrow may become unresponsive and result in decreased red blood cell count with normal-sized red blood cells containing a normal amount of hemoglobin (normocytic and normochromic anemia).

Changes in the eyes include burning and itching, blood vessels growing into the clear covering of the iris (vascularization of the cornea), blurred vision and light sensitivity (photophobia).

Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:

There are no known side effects of too much riboflavin. Excess riboflavin is excreted in the urine.

There are no known contraindications to or significant food or drug interactions associated with riboflavin.

Additional Information:

Click here for a list of reputable Web sites with general information on nutrition.


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  11. USP DI 19th ed. Englewood, CO: Micromedex Inc.; 1999

  12. McCormick DB. Riboflavin. In: Shils MS, Olson JA, Shike M, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lea & Febiger; 1994:366-375.

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