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Benefits, food sources of Vitamin B2

by James Davies


Olufunke Faluyi

This year has started on an emotional note for me because of the appreciation messages I keep getting from you all. It shows that what we do here is impactful. I deeply appreciate your messages.

Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A. It is in season now. In fact, it is hawked around. Please take this advantage and incorporate it into your diet. This week, I will discuss vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Please, permit me to share something with you before I start the discussion.

Part of my childhood was spent in Ile-Ife, Osun State. An herbal trade fair took place years ago at the stadium in Ile-Ife and herbal practitioners from Ile-Ife and its environment brought their products for sale. It was indeed a massive event. At church then, it was made to look like the hosts of hell were let loose because prayer points were said against the trade fair and people were discouraged from going there. Looking back, I just can’t stop laughing because I know better now. The question I will keep on asking is how can you say you believe in God but you hate his Ocimum gratissimum (Efinrin), Vernonia amygdalina (bitter leaf), Jatropha multifida (Ogege), Newbouldia leaves (Ewe akoko) all of which He created for you to be in good health? It is time we stopped separating God from nature.

I have seen people tell others to get Riboflavin for mouth sores. It is true it can be effective in dealing with typical mouth sores as it restores the integrity of the lining of the mouth but my concern is that there can be many causes of mouth sores. The fact that symptoms look-alike is the reason I decided not to include them in this series. You may think your ailment is a vitamin deficiency whereas it may be something life–threatening that needs urgent medical attention. Let us put a stop to self-medication.

The first observation of a pigment in milk with yellow-green fluorescence can be traced to the English chemist, Alexander Wynter Blyth, in 1872 but it was not until the early 1930s that the substance was characterised as riboflavin. It was first synthesized in Germany and Austria in the 1930s by chemists, H. Meerwein, R. Kuhn and their colleagues. In its purified, solid form, it is a water-soluble yellow-orange crystalline powder. In addition to its function as a vitamin, it is used as a food colouring agent.

Vitamin B2, also known as Riboflavin, is found in food and sold as a dietary supplement. It is essential to the formation of two major coenzymes, flavin mononucleotide and flavin adenine dinucleotide. FAD contributes to the conversion of tryptophan to niacin (vitamin B3) and the conversion of vitamin B6 to the coenzyme pyridoxal 5’-phosphate requires FMN. These coenzymes are involved in energy metabolism, cellular respiration, antibody production as well as normal growth and development.

Riboflavin is essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and fats. It is involved in maintaining normal circulating levels of homocysteine; in riboflavin deficiency, homocysteine levels increase thereby elevating the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It boosts energy, increases blood circulation, promotes growth and development, regulates thyroid activity, is great for the skin, protects the nervous system, boosts mineral absorption, repairs tissues, protects the digestive tract, great for healthy fetal development, boosts the immune system and it is important for red blood cell production.

It plays a vital role in maintaining the body’s energy supply. Vitamin B2 is also important for eye health, the U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that eating a diet rich in riboflavin can lower the risk of developing cataracts. Levels of certain vitamins, chemicals and minerals in the bloodstream seem to be dependent on healthy levels of B2 as well, for example, riboflavin changes vitamin B6 and folate (vitamin B9) into forms that the body can use. B2 may be important to maintaining a healthy pregnancy diet as well, according to a study by the University Women’s Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany, riboflavin deficiency may be a factor in causing preeclampsia, a condition that causes high blood pressure in late pregnancy. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, riboflavin is important to how the body processes iron, without it, research shows that the body is more likely to develop anemia. Those suffering from migraines may find that taking doses of B2 may help. A study by the department of neurology of Humboldt University of Berlin found that those taking high doses of riboflavin had significantly fewer migraines. B2 aids cell turnover and collagen maintenance which protects the structural integrity of your skin, reduces inflammation and speeds wound healing. It also helps with mucus secretion in the skin. It improves zinc absorption, another important mineral for skin health.

Foods high in riboflavin include tofu, milk, fish (like salmon, mackerel, herring) mushrooms, pork, spinach, almonds, avocados, and eggs. Liver, oysters, brewer’s yeast, shellfish, lean meats, avocados, dried peas and asparagus. Seeds and grains such as brown rice, millet and sunflower seeds. Meat, turkey, chicken, beef, kidneys and liver. Dairy products; Asparagus, Artichokes, cayenne, currants, fortified cereals, kelp Lima beans, navy beans and peas. Nuts; parsley, pumpkins, rosehips, sage, sweet potatoes. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, dandelion greens and watercress.

A Vitamin B2 deficiency can happen due to numerous factors such as over-dieting, abusing alcohol, liver disorders and kidney dialysis. The elderly and the chronically ill are groups who may be especially susceptible to riboflavin deficiency. The body’s ability to absorb riboflavin is also believed to be reduced when taking birth control pills.

In a study titled, “Riboflavin: The Health Benefits of a Forgotten Natural Vitamin,’’ by Nittiya Suwannasom et al, the use of RF in fighting pathogens using UV-Light is amotivating approach, since it does not go along with adverse side effects. Through the consumption of functional RF-enriched foods, many diseases could possibly be prevented according to the currently available scientific evidence.

In a study titled, “Riboflavin (vitamin B2) and oxidative stress: a review,’’ by Marziyeh Ashoori et al, the results of the reviewed studies confirm the antioxidant nature of riboflavin and indicate that this vitamin can protect the body against oxidative stress, especially lipid peroxidation and reperfusion oxidative injury.

In a study titled, “Riboflavin – properties, occurrence and its use in medicine,’’ by Małgorzata Szczuko et al, in conclusion, the growing use of this vitamin in medicine and industry shows its huge health potential.

In a study titled, “Vitamin B2 functionalised iron oxide nanozymes for mouth ulcer healing,’’ by Yunhao Gu et al, the conclusion is that it may be a promising reagent in the treatment of mouth ulcer because of their intrinsic anti-inflammation and antibacterial capabilities.

In a study titled, “Riboflavin Has Neuroprotective Potential: Focus on Parkinson’s disease and Migraine,’’ by Eyad T. Ma rashly et al, Riboflavin is a potential neuroprotective agent. In fact, riboflavin has demonstrated its ability to tackle significant pathogenesis-related mechanisms in neurological disorders, exemplified by the ones attributed to the pathogenesis of PD and migraine.

My next discussion is on Vitamin B3.

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