Riboflavin is a type of B vitamin. It is water soluble, which means it is not stored in the body. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water. Leftover amounts of the vitamin leave the body through the urine. The body keeps a small reserve of these vitamins. They have to be taken on a regular basis to maintain the reserve.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) works with the other B vitamins. It is important for body growth. It helps in red blood cell production. It also aids in the release of energy from proteins.
The following foods provide riboflavin in the diet:
- Dairy products
- Green leafy vegetables
- Lean meats
- Organ meats, such as liver and kidneys
Breads and cereals are often fortified with riboflavin. Fortified means the vitamin has been added to the food.
Riboflavin is destroyed by exposure to light. Foods with riboflavin should not be stored in clear containers that are exposed to light.
Lack of riboflavin is not common in the United States because this vitamin is plentiful in the food supply. Symptoms of a severe deficiency include:
- Mouth or lip sores
- Skin complaints
- Sore throat
- Swelling of mucous membranes
Because riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin, leftover amounts leave the body through the urine. There is no known poisoning from riboflavin.
Recommendations for riboflavin, as well as other nutrients, are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. DRI is a term for a set of reference intakes that are used to plan and assess the nutrient intakes of healthy people. These values, which vary by age and sex, include:
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): The average daily level of intake that is enough to meet the nutrient needs of nearly all (97% to 98%) healthy people. An RDA is an intake level based on scientific research evidence.
Adequate Intake (AI): This level is established when there is not enough scientific research evidence to develop an RDA. It is set at a level that is thought to ensure enough nutrition.
Dietary Reference Intakes for riboflavin:
- 0 to 6 months: 0.3* milligrams per day (mg/day)
- 7 to 12 months: 0.4* mg/day
*Adequate Intake (AI)
- 1 to 3 years: 0.5 mg/day
- 4 to 8 years: 0.6 mg/day
- 9 to 13 years: 0.9 mg/day
Adolescents and adults
- Males age 14 and older: 1.3 mg/day
- Females age 14 to 18 years: 1.0 mg/day
- Females age 19 and older: 1.1 mg/day
- Pregnancy: 1.4 mg/day
- Lactation: 1.6 mg/day
The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods.
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Markell M, Siddiqi HA. Vitamins and trace elements. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 27.
Mason JB, Booth SL. Vitamins, trace minerals, and other micronutrients. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 205.
Review Date 3/11/2021
Updated by: Meagan Bridges, RD, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 09/29/2021.