What is it?
Some people take riboflavin by mouth to prevent low levels of riboflavin (riboflavin deficiency) in the body, for various types of cancer, and for migraine headaches. It is also taken by mouth for acne, muscle cramps, burning feet syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, and blood disorders such as congenital methemoglobinemia and red blood cell aplasia. Some people use riboflavin for eye conditions including eye fatigue, cataracts, and glaucoma.
Some people also take riboflavin by mouth to maintain healthy hair, skin, and nails, to slow aging, for canker sores, multiple sclerosis, memory loss including Alzheimer's disease, high blood pressure, burns, liver disease, and sickle cell anemia.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for RIBOFLAVIN are as follows:
- Preventing and treating low riboflavin levels (riboflavin deficiency). In adults and children who have too little riboflavin in their body, taking riboflavin by mouth can increase levels of riboflavin in the body.
Possibly effective for...
- Cataracts.People who eat more riboflavin as part of their diet seem to have a lower risk of developing cataracts. Also, taking supplements containing riboflavin plus niacin seems to help prevent cataracts.
- High amounts of homocysteine in the blood (hyperhomocysteinemia). Taking riboflavin by mouth for 12 weeks decreases levels of homocysteine by up to 40% in some people. Also, taking riboflavin along with folic acid and pyridoxine seems to lower homocysteine levels by 26% in people with high homocysteine levels caused by drugs that are used to prevent seizures.
- Migraine headaches. Taking high-dose riboflavin by mouth seems to reduce the number of migraine headache attacks, by about 2 attacks per month. Taking riboflavin in combination with other vitamin sand minerals seems to also reduce the amount of pain experienced during a migraine.
Possibly ineffective for...
- Stomach cancer. Taking riboflavin along with niacin does help prevent gastric cancer.
- Malnutrition caused by too little protein in the diet (kwashiorkor). Some research suggests that taking riboflavin, vitamin E, selenium, and N-acetyl cysteine by mouth does not reduce fluid, increase height or weight, or decrease infections in children at risk for kwashiorkor.
- Lung cancer. Taking riboflavin by mouth along with niacin does not help prevent lung cancer.
- Malaria. Taking riboflavin along with iron, thiamine, and vitamin C by mouth, does not reduce the number or seriousness of malaria infections in children at risk of being exposed to malaria.
- High blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia). In women that are 4 months pregnant, starting to take riboflavin by mouth does reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Lactic acidosis (a serious blood-acid imbalance) in people with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Early research shows that taking riboflavin by mouth might by helpful for treating lactic acidosis caused by drugs called nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
- Cervical cancer. Increasing intake of riboflavin from dietary and supplement sources, along with thiamine, folic acid, and vitamin B12, might decrease the risk of developing cervical cancer.
- Cancer of the food pipe (esophageal cancer). Research on the effects of riboflavin for preventing esophageal cancer is conflicting. Some research shows that taking riboflavin by mouth may decrease the risk of getting esophageal cancer, while other research shows that it has no effect.
- High blood pressure. Early research shows that taking riboflavin by mouth in certain patients at higher risk of high blood pressure due to genetic differences may lower blood pressure when used in addition to prescribed blood pressure medications.
- Liver cancer. Early research shows that taking riboflavin and niacin by mouth might reduce the risk of liver cancer in people less than 55 years-old. However, it does not seem to reduce the risk of liver cancer in older people.
- Multiple sclerosis. Early research shows that taking riboflavin by mouth for 6 months does not improve disability in patients with multiple sclerosis.
- White patches inside the mouth (oral leukoplakia). Early research shows that low levels of riboflavin in the blood are linked with an increased risk of oral leukoplakia. However, taking riboflavin supplements by mouth for 20 months does not seem to prevent or treat oral leukoplakia.
- Iron deficiency during pregnancy. Early research shows that taking riboflavin, iron, and folic acid by mouth does not increase iron levels in pregnant women more than taking just iron and folic acid.
- Sickle cell disease. Early research shows that taking riboflavin by mouth for 8 weeks increases iron levels in people with low iron levels due to sickle cell disease.
- Stroke. Early research shows that taking riboflavin and niacin by mouth does not prevent stroke-related death in people at risk for stroke.
- Boosting the immune system.
- Canker sores.
- Maintaining healthy skin and hair.
- Memory loss including Alzheimer's disease.
- Muscle cramps.
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Are there safety concerns?
Special precautions & warnings:Children: Riboflavin is LIKELY SAFE for most children when taken by mouth in appropriate amounts as recommended by the Food and Nutrition Board for the National Institute of Medicine (see dosing section below).
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Riboflavin is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth and used appropriately for pregnant or breast-feeding women. The recommended amounts are 1.4 mg per day for pregnant women and 1.6 mg per day in breast-feeding women. Riboflavin is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth in larger doses, short-term. Some research shows that riboflavin is safe when taken at a dose of 15 mg once every 2 weeks for 10 weeks.
Hepatitis, Cirrhosis, Billary obstruction: Riboflavin absorption is decreased in people with these conditions.
Are there interactions with medications?
- Antibiotics (Tetracycline antibiotics)
- Riboflavin might decrease the amount of tetracyclines that the body can absorb. Taking riboflavin along with tetracyclines might decrease the effectiveness of tetracyclines. To avoid this interaction, take riboflavin 2 hours before or 4 hours after taking tetracyclines.
Some tetracyclines include demeclocycline (Declomycin), minocycline (Minocin), and tetracycline (Achromycin).
- Drying medications (Anticholinergic drugs)
- Some drying medications can affect the stomach and intestines. Taking these drying medications with riboflavin (vitamin B2) can increase the amount of riboflavin that is absorbed in the body. But it's not known if this interaction is important.
Some of these drying medications include atropine, scopolamine, and some medications used for allergies (antihistamines), and for depression (antidepressants).
- Medications for depression (Tricyclic antidepressants)
- Some medications for depression can decrease the amount of riboflavin in the body. This interaction is not a big concern because it only occurs with very large amounts of some medications for depression. Some medications used for depression include amitriptyline (Elavil) or imipramine (Tofranil, Janimine), and others.
- Phenobarbital (Luminal)
- Riboflavin is broken down by the body. Phenobarbital might increase how quickly riboflavin is broken down in the body. It is not clear if this interaction is significant.
- Probenecid (Benemid)
- Probenecid (Benemid) can increase how much riboflavin is in the body. This might cause there to be too much riboflavin in the body. But it's not known if this interaction is a big concern.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- Blond psyllium
- Psyllium reduces absorption of riboflavin from supplements in healthy women. It isn't clear whether this occurs with dietary riboflavin, or whether it's really important to health.
- A form of boron, called boric acid, can reduce the solubility of riboflavin in water. This might reduce the absorption of riboflavin.
- Folic acid
- In people with a condition called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) deficiency, taking folic acid might make riboflavin deficiency worse. Folic acid might lower blood levels of riboflavin in people with this condition.
- Riboflavin supplements may improve the way iron supplements work in some people who don't have enough iron. This effect is probably important only in people with riboflavin deficiency.
Are there interactions with foods?
- Absorption of riboflavin supplements may be increased when taken with food.
What dose is used?
- General: The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of riboflavin for adults is 1.3 mg per day for males, 1.1 mg per day for women, 1.4 mg per day for pregnant females, and 1.6 mg per day for lactating women. There is no daily Upper Intake Levels (UL) for riboflavin, which is the highest level of intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse effects.
- For preventing and treating low levels of riboflavin (riboflavin deficiency): Riboflavin 5-30 mg daily has been used.
- For cataracts: A combination of riboflavin 3 mg plus niacin 40 mg daily for 5-6 years has been used.
- For high levels of homocysteine in the blood): Riboflavin 1.6 mg daily for 12 weeks has been used. A combination containing 75 mg of riboflavin, 0.4 mg of folic acid, and 120 mg of pyridoxine daily for 30 days has also been used.
- For migraine headaches: The most common dose is riboflavin 400 mg daily for at least three months. A specific product (Dolovent; Linpharma Inc., Oldsmar, FL ) dosed at two capsules in morning and two capsules in the evening for 3 months has also been used. This dose provides a total of riboflavin 400 mg, magnesium 600 mg, and coenzyme Q10 150 mg per day.
- General: The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of riboflavin is 0.3 mg per day for infants up to 6 months old, 0.4 mg per day for infants 6-12 months old, 0.5 mg per day for children 1-3 years old, 0.6 mg per day for children 4-8 years old, 0.9 mg per day for children 9-13 years old, 1.3 mg per day for males 14-18 years old, and 1.0 mg per day for females 14-18. There is no daily Upper Intake Levels (UL) for riboflavin, which is the highest level of intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse effects.
- For preventing and treating low levels of riboflavin (riboflavin deficiency): Riboflavin 2 mg once, then 0.5-1.5 mg daily for 14 days has been used. Riboflavin 2-5 mg daily for up to two months has been used. Riboflavin 5 mg five days per week for up to one year has also been used.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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