This is part of our continuing series on the function of vitamins in the body.
Vitamin B2 is a powerhouse of energy, and a key member of the B vitamin family. B2, or riboflavin, is comprised of two enzymes: flavin mononucleotide and flavin adenine dinucleotide, which play an essential role in the breakdown and assimilation of food. As a potent enzyme, riboflavin helps us to synthesize essential fatty acids and amino acids. It also enables better absorption of iron and B6. Riboflavin is so vital to the system that cells cannot grow without it, and deficiency is quickly seen in cells that are frequently reproducing, like the mucous membranes, eyes, hair and in vitro.
Because B2 is such an intricate part of cellular energy and metabolism, its requirements are based on the amount of calories a person consumes, as well as their body weight and their lifestyle. According to The Nutrition Desk Reference, we need roughly 0.6 mg of vitamin B2 per 100 pounds of body weight every day.
For example, a pregnant woman needs no less than 1.6 mg/day to nourish herself and the cellular demand of her growing infant. Similarly, because young children and teens are growing so rapidly, they need a daily dose of .8-1.2 mg/day. (Signs of deficiency among this group include red cracks at the corners of the mouth.) Because of their larger build, an active adult male will need more substantial dose of around 1.7 mg/day.
Like most other B vitamins, B2 is water soluble, meaning it is used rapidly in the body and can be excreted quickly under stress and with the use of diuretics like caffeine. Depletion can stem from the birth control pill, strenuous exercise, antibiotic use and alcohol. Unfortunately B2 deficiency isn’t terribly easy to recognize—that’s why it’s imperative to reach for whole foods that offer the nutrient in abundance, like organic milk products, tuna and salmon, chicken, dark leafy greens, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, sprouts, and eggs. Choosing foods loaded with this essential nutrient will keep your energy levels up and prepare your body to repair tissue and ward off sickness. A daily multivitamin or B complex can also be a good way to supplement this essential vitamin.
The Nutrition Desk Reference, by Robert Garrison and Elizabeth Somer
Elizabeth Willis is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and Herbalist. She has a private practice in Boulder, Colo., and also works at Pharmaca’s downtown Boulder location. Elizabeth specializes in a holistic approach by connecting her clients with the more dynamic roles of food and nutrition. She believes that by eliminating food intolerances, building optimal nutrition and working directly with the emotional body, it is possible to greatly revive one’s health by reconnecting body with spirit.