Using Riboflavin as Medicine

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Vitamin B2, riboflavin, is necessary for energy creation. It helps turn fat, carbohydrates and protein into usable forms of energy. It also processes fats and amino acids, and is needed for the body to form red blood cells.

The most important thing about riboflavin is its essential nature as a vitamin that keeps you energized. But there is some evidence that the B vitamin can help deal with some health problems as well. High doses have been found to reduce the frequency of migraines. Riboflavin has been involved in studies that found it protects against cataracts. Early evidence shows it may help those with sickle-cell anemia, HIV infection, or those wishing to boost their physical performance.

— Migraine: If you suffer the debilitating pain of chronic migraines, you may have some help with riboflavin. The vitamin could control them, particularly those headaches that are inherited. Supplementing riboflavin appears to lead to fewer and less severe migraines. The improvement noted by researchers is easily as good as what has been seen with drugs treating migraine. It has been proven to limit the number of migraines, cutting in half the number experienced per month.

— Cataracts: It’s possible that riboflavin supplements could help prevent cataracts in your eyes. This is a disease caused by damaged proteins building up in the eye. It is the main cause of declining vision in older adults. Along with niacin, another B vitamin, riboflavin has been shown to reduce cataracts.

— Sickle-cell Disease: Early evidence (that needs to be backed up) has suggested that people with sickle-cell disease can have overall improvement in health through riboflavin. Not one disease but many, sickle-cell means your red blood cells are defective and oxygen distribution is disrupted. Patients have shown improvement in health when given riboflavin.

Here is dosage information on the vitamin. Men need to get 1.3 mg of riboflavin a day; women need 1.1 mg. Those are the official recommendations. Serious deficiencies don’t happen too often, although older adults are prone to low levels.

Some drugs can interfere with your body’s ability to use riboflavin. Antidepressants, tetracycline, oral contraceptives, AZT, and didanosine are a few. A class of psychiatric drugs known as phenothiazines can disrupt riboflavin. As well, the use of antibiotics may leave you prone to high excretion of riboflavin in your urine, which means you should supplement more to make up for the loss.

When taking supplements or using riboflavin as therapy, 1 mg to 4 mg a day is generally sufficient. For migraines, some experts recommend up to 400 mg a day. For cataract prevention, nutritional doses are fine. There are no known side effects, and no real safety concerns have been found if used at appropriate levels.