B2 (riboflavin) is needed for converting proteins, fats and carbohydrates into energy; it is necessary for healthy skin and eyes. Riboflavin is also necessary for red blood cell formation, antibody production, and growth. It is important in the prevention and treatment of cataracts. Riboflavin also facilitates the use of oxygen by the tissues of the skin, nails and hair.
Riboflavin functions as the precursor (building block) for two coenzymes that are important in energy production. Flavin mononucleotide (FMN) and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) are the two coenzymes that act as hydrogen carriers to help make energy as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) through the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Riboflavin is also instrumental in cell respiration, helping each cell utilize oxygen most efficiently; it is helpful in maintaining good vision and healthy hair, skin, and nails; it is necessary for normal cell growth.
Supplemental riboflavin is commonly used to treat and help prevent visual problems, eye fatigue, and cataracts. It seems to help with burning eyes, excess tearing (watery eyes), and decreased vision resulting from eye strain. Riboflavin is also used for many kinds of stress conditions, fatigue, and vitality or growth problems. For people with allergies and chemical sensitivities, riboflavin-5-phosphate may be more readily assimilated than riboflavin.
Riboflavin is given for skin difficulties such as acne, dermatitis, eczema, and skin ulcers. B2 is also used in the treatment of alcohol problems, ulcers, digestive difficulties, and leg cramps, and supplementing it may be advantageous for prevention or during treatment of cancer. There is, however, not much published research to support these common uses.
Like most of the B-vitamins, deficiency is of significant concern. Some authorities claim that vitamin B2 deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in America. However, because of its production by intestinal bacteria, it may not cause symptoms as severe as other vitamin deficiencies.
Insufficient levels of riboflavin are provided by diets that do not include riboflavin-rich foods such as liver, yeast, and vegetables; special diets for weight loss, ulcers, or treatment of diabetes; or the diets of people who have bad eating habits and consume mostly refined foods and fast foods. Riboflavin deficiency is more commonly seen in persons with alcohol problems, in the elderly and the poor, and in depressed patients.
Symptoms of vitamin B2 deficiency include sensitivity or inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth; cracks or sores at the corners of the mouth, called cheilosis; a red, sore tongue; eye redness or sensitivity to light, burning eyes, eye fatigue, or a dry, sandy feeling of the eyes; fatigue and/or dizziness; dermatitis with a dry yet greasy or oily scaling; nervous tissue damage; and retarded growth in infants and children. Cataracts may occur more frequently with B2 deficiency. Hair loss, weight loss, general lack of vitality, and digestive problems are also possible with depletion or deficiency states of vitamin B2; these problems may begin when daily intake is 0.6mg or less.
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