How was Riboflavin discovered?
In 1879, researchers discovered a yellow-green colored compound in milk whey that they named ‘lactoflavin’ (lacto for milk and flavin from the Latin flavus, or “yellow”). Later in 1933, this same substance was isolated from yeast and given the name ‘riboflavin’.
The name is derived from a type of sugar that is part of this vitamin’s molecular structure, called ‘ribose’, and ‘flavin’ as mentioned above. When taken as a supplement is gives the urine a harmless yellow discoloration, hence the suffix -flavin in the name.
What it does:
It maintains the health of our eyes, nerves, and in the digestive system helps break down proteins and fats, as well as convert vitamins B6 and B9 (folate) into their active forms.
Riboflavin plays a key role in maintaining our body clock by activating blue light-sensitive cells in the retina (in the back of the eye), preventing the production of melatonin (hormone signaling the body that it needs to sleep). In 2015 a study found that high intake of riboflavin is very protective against cataracts.
Riboflavin helps to maintain normal energy production in brain mitochondria (powerhouses in our body cells). The Canadian Headache Society found that Migraines are caused by dysfunction of brain mitochondria, and highly recommends a dose of 400 mg /day for prevention or treatment. This has been approved by the American Academy of Neurology and Headache Society.
Riboflavin is crucial for the absorption of iron in the body. Therefore, riboflavin adequate riboflavin intake can play an essential role in the prevention of anemia.
Milk and dairy are the primary sources of Riboflavin in the diet in many countries. So countries that do not consume it commonly have ariboflavinosis (no riboflavin). Fatty meats like beef liver and fatty fish are excellent sources.
Other Good sources include green vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, nuts, eggs, soybeans, and whole grains.
Riboflavin is heat stable and not destroyed in cooking but is light sensitive. Therefore, whole grains and dairy should be stored in dark containers.
Deficiency Symptoms and Conditions:
Early signs of deficiency can occur within a couple of weeks, these symptoms include low energy and insomnia, eyes fatigue and become sensitive to light.
The skin is affected: scalp, ears, eyelids, and genital area begin to itch and scale, and the corners of the mouth begin to crack. Some people experience a sore throat and lowered immunity. The tongue may take on a magenta-colored appearance. Anemia can develop if the deficiency is prolonged.
Swedish vegans, teenage girls, and elders on restricted diets are at the most risk as well as alcoholics. Diabetics and people with Kidney Failure are also at risk.
Most common forms in supplements are Riboflavin (B2) and riboflavin 5′-monophosphate.
Important to remember that Riboflavin works with the other B group vitamins, so a B group supplement is a good place to start; add a riboflavin supplement if you have any of the abovementioned deficiency complaints. Once these have settled you can go back to your B group supplement only.
It would be wise for those suffering from migraines and/or blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) to consider a trial of riboflavin.
Riboflavin deficiency is not a problem because of limited intestinal absorption.
If you have been diagnosed with Blepharitis, have Migraines, got Iron absorption issues, or are sensitive to light, it’s highly likely that you have a riboflavin deficiency.