Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B 2, is an essential nutrient required for life. This vitamin works with two enzymes critical to the body's production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—its main energy source. Vitamin B 2 is also used to process amino acids and fats and to activate vitamin B 6 and folate.

Preliminary evidence suggests that riboflavin supplements may offer benefits for two illnesses: migraine headaches and cataracts.

The official US and Canadian recommendations for daily intake of riboflavin are as follows:

  • Infants
    • 0-6 months: 0.3 mg
    • 7-12 months: 0.4 mg
  • Children
    • 1-3 years: 0.5 mg
    • 4-8 years: 0.6 mg
    • 9-13 years: 0.9 mg
  • Males
    • 14 years and older: 1.3 mg
  • Females
    • 14-18 years: 1.0 mg
    • 19 years and older: 1.1 mg
  • Pregnant Women: 1.4 mg
  • Nursing Women: 1.6 mg

Riboflavin is found in organ meats (such as liver, kidney, and heart) and in many vegetables, nuts, legumes, and leafy greens. The richest sources are torula (nutritional) yeast, brewer's yeast, and calf liver. Almonds, wheat germ, wild rice, and mushrooms are good sources as well.

Although serious riboflavin deficiencies are rare, slightly low levels can occur in children, the elderly, and those in poverty.1-4Oral contraceptives used in the 1970s and 1980s appeared to reduce levels of riboflavin.5,6,7 But, it is not clear whether today’s versions of those medications, which contain much lower levels of estrogen, would have the same effect.