Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, has a crucial role in metabolizing carbohydrates in the body. When a deficiency of this nutrient occurs, it is usually in conjunction with shortages of other B vitamins. People who do not get enough animal products, fortified milk or cereal can suffer from this deficiency. A lack of this vitamin is rarely publicized, but Dr. Mark R. Allee in eMedicine Medscape states that it may be a very common deficiency in America.
Becoming Deficient in B2
B2 is soluble in water and the body doesn’t store it. Although the liver, kidneys and heart maintain a small reserve, it is still necessary that the body be resupplied with this nutrient on a daily basis.
Although inadequate intake is most often the cause of B2 deficiency, medical problems also can be contributing factors. Those on hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis, and those with malabsorption syndromes, chronic diarrhea, long-term barbiturate use, liver disorders or chronic alcoholism can suffer from this deficiency. These conditions do not allow proper absorption through the small intestine to provide enough of the vitamin.
B2 Deficiency Signs
A deficiency of B2 often manifests as dermatological problems. Chapping and fissuring of both lips are seen quiet often. The philtrum (grooved area under the nose), scrotum and vulva can show signs of an oily, scaly rash. Red itchy eyes, migraine headaches, fatigue, photophobia and night blindness are also indications.
Some abnormalities in fetal development are also associated with a shortage of B2. Congenital heart defects, cleft palate and retardation of growth in infants and children have been documented, as well.
The Results of Long Term B2 Deficiency
Long term deficiency of B2/riboflavin can create prolonged health problems such as:
Cataracts : This is the clouding of the lens in the eye. Vision becomes blurry, poor night vision is experienced, double vision may occur, and colors appear to be faded.
Peripheral Neuropathy : The peripheral nerves become damaged and stop working correctly. Pain, numbness and shivering-like feelings in the arms and legs are the symptoms experienced. Progression of the disease can lead to muscular, digestive and cardiac problems.
Mild Anemia : Sometimes the lack of B2 defers the process of iron absorption which can lead to mild anemia. Symptoms may be dizziness, paleness, breath shortness, fatigue, chest pain, coldness in the extremities, irritability, brittle nails, depression, irregular heartbeat, or weakness.
Malignancy : The precancerous conditions of esophageal dysplasia and cervical malignancies are associated with this deficiency.
Getting Enough Riboflavin
Making changes to the diet may be enough to provide adequate amounts of this nutrient. However, discussion with your doctor is important to assure that proper amounts are taken in. Since a deficiency in B2/riboflavin rarely happens alone but with a shortage of other B vitamins, your doctor may recommend taking additional supplements to assure that optimum levels are being achieved.
Riboflavin can be found in foods such as spinach, mushrooms, romaine lettuce, broccoli, chard, chicken eggs, cow’s milk, asparagus, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, yogurt and venison.
These are the recommended doses for optimum health:
• 0.3 AI/day for 0 – 6 months Babies
• 0.4 AI/day for 7 – 12 months Babies
• 0.5 mg/day for 1 – 3 years Toddlers
• 0.6 mg/day for 4 – 8 years Youths
• 0.9 mg/day for 9 – 13 years Youths
• 1.3 mg/day for 14 – 18 years Teens/Male
• 1.0 mg/day for 14 – 18 years Teens/Female
• 1.3 mg/day for over 19 years Grownup Males
• 1.1 mg/day for over 19 years Grownup Females
• 1.4 mg/day for All pregnant women
• 1.6 mg/day for Women breastfeeding