Riboflavin Requirements and Dietary Sources

Dry beans are rich in riboflavin.
Dry beans are rich in riboflavin. Sanja Gjenero

Riboflavin, or vitamin B-2, is a member of the water-soluble family of B-Complex vitamins. It's required for glucose metabolism so your body can produce energy from carbohydrates. It' also needed for healthy red blood cell production and general body growth.

Riboflavin also works as an antioxidant to help prevent free-radical damage to your cells. This damage can come from pollution, smoking or other exposures, and also happens as a result of normal metabolism. 

Deficiency is rare. Riboflavin is found naturally in lean meats, eggs, green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, fortified bread and cereals, milk and dairy products. Fortified bread and cereals also contain riboflavin.

It's sensitive to light, so foods rich in riboflavin should not be stored in clear containers -- that's why milk is sold in opaque containers. Cooking doesn't destroy riboflavin.

The Health and Medicine Division of National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has set the dietary reference intakes for riboflavin based on age and sex. These DRIs are equal to the amount that a typical healthy person would need per day, so if you have any medical conditions, you should speak to your doctor about your vitamin and mineral needs.

Dietary Reference Intakes


1 to 3 years: 0.5 milligrams per day
4 to 8 years: 0.6 milligrams per day
9 to 13 years: 0.9 milligrams per day
14 + years: 1.3 milligrams per day


1 to 3 years: 0.5 milligrams per day
4 to 8 years: 0.6 milligrams per day
9 to 13 years: 0.9 milligrams per day
14 to 18 years: 1.0 milligrams per day
18+ years: 1.1 milligrams per day
Women who are pregnant: 1.4 milligrams per day
Women who are breastfeeding: 1.6 milligrams per day

Riboflavin intake is usually adequate in a typical diet so supplementation should not be necessary. Riboflavin supplements have been suggested for prevention of cataracts and treating or prevention migraine headaches, but more research is needed to see if it truly is beneficial.

Riboflavin does not seem to cause any serious side effects, and consumption is generally considered safe, even at high supplemental doses. The Institute of Medicine has not set tolerable upper limits for riboflavin intake from dietary supplements.

But some sources say riboflavin doses above 10 milligrams per day may cause eye damage from the sun. Also, very high doses may cause itching, numbness, burning feeling of the skin and sensitivity to light.

Smaller doses of riboflavin, like what's found in a B-complex vitamin or even a multivitamin will turn your urine a bright yellow. 

Taking any one B vitamin as a supplement for a long period can result in an imbalance of other important B vitamins. For this reason, you may want to take a B-complex vitamin, which includes all the B vitamins.

Talk to your health care provider if you're thinking of taking large doses of riboflavin or any other vitamin or mineral.

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