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Publication #FCS8668

Facts About Riboflavin1

R. Elaine Turner and Wendy J. Dahl2

Why do we need riboflavin?

Riboflavin is one of the B vitamins. It also is known as vitamin B2. We need riboflavin to use the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the foods we eat. Riboflavin helps us use these nutrients for energy in our bodies and additionally functions as an antioxidant. Riboflavin also is needed to properly use the vitamins niacin, folate, and vitamin B6.

Figure 1. 

Because riboflavin is found in a variety of foods, most people get plenty in their diets.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

What happens if we don’t get enough riboflavin?

Because riboflavin is found in a variety of foods, most people get plenty in their diets. A deficiency of riboflavin occurs only when the diet is very poor and lacks many nutrients.

Risk factors for developing a riboflavin deficiency include chronic alcohol and drug use. Blood tests can be done to diagnose a deficiency. A lack of riboflavin can cause sores in the mouth, inflammation of the tongue, and inflammation of the skin. Lack of riboflavin can also affect the body’s use of other vitamins.

How much riboflavin do we need?

Table 1 lists recommended daily intakes of riboflavin.

Table 1. 

Recommended daily intakes of riboflavin by life stage

Life Stage

Riboflavin

(mg/day)

Men, ages 19+

1.3

Women, ages 19+

1.1

Pregnancy

1.4

Breastfeeding

1.6

mg = milligrams

How can we get enough riboflavin?

Milk and milk products are good sources of riboflavin. Riboflavin is also found in whole grains.

Riboflavin is one of four vitamins added to enriched grain products such as enriched flour. The other vitamins added to enriched grains are thiamin, niacin, and folic acid.

Enriched breads and cereals contain riboflavin. Look for the word “riboflavin” in the ingredient list on the label to see if it has been added:

INGREDIENTS: Enriched semolina (iron, thiamin mononitrate, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin), tomato, beet and spinach powders …

Other good sources of riboflavin are meat, eggs, and mushrooms. Table 2 lists some foods and the amount of riboflavin they contain.

Table 2. 

Food examples and milligrams per serving of riboflavin in each

Food

Riboflavin

(mg per serving)

Yogurt, 8 oz

0.5

Milk, 1 cup

0.4

Ready-to-eat cereal, 1 cup

0.4

Egg, cooked, 1 large

0.3

Pork chop, cooked, 3 oz

0.3

Mushrooms, cooked, ½ cup

0.2

Cottage cheese, ½ cup

0.2

mg = milligrams

oz = ounces

How should foods be prepared to retain riboflavin?

Riboflavin is easily destroyed when exposed to light. Milk stored in glass and exposed to light loses much of its riboflavin content. Opaque plastic jugs and paper cartons protect the riboflavin in milk. Only small amounts of riboflavin are lost in cooking.

What about supplements?

Due to the practice of grain enrichment most people in the United States get plenty of riboflavin in their diet, so supplements usually are not needed. Most multivitamin supplements contain riboflavin.

Research has not yet found problems from consuming too much riboflavin from food or supplements. However, there is no need to take a supplement with more than 100 to 150% of the Daily Value for riboflavin.

Where can I get more information?

The Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) agent at your county Extension office may have more written information and nutrition classes for you to attend. Also, a registered dietitian (RD) can provide reliable information to you.

Reliable nutrition information may be found on the Internet at the following sites:

http://fycs.ifas.ufl.edu
http://www.eatright.org
http://www.nutrition.gov

Footnotes

1.

This document is FCS8668, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. First published: June 2001. Revised: April 2006, April 2012. Please visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

R. Elaine Turner, PhD, RD, associate dean and professor, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and Wendy J. Dahl, assistant professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.