Vitamin B2 – Depression Help

Vitamin B2 (also known as riboflavin) has been linked to mood. In 1973, researchers discovered that if normal, healthy men were given diets nearly devoid of this vitamin, they would soon score higher ratings on tests designed to detect depression.


Vitamin B2 is one of 8 B vitamins. All B vitamins help the body to convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which is "burned" to produce energy. These B vitamins, often referred to as B complex vitamins, also help the body metabolize fats and protein. B complex vitamins are necessary for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver. They also help the nervous system function properly.

All the B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning that the body does not store them.

In addition to producing energy for the body, riboflavin also works as an antioxidant by fighting damaging particles in the body known as free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells and DNA, and may contribute to the aging process, as well as the development of a number of health conditions, such as heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants such as riboflavin can fight free radicals and may reduce or help prevent some of the damage they cause.

Riboflavin is also needed to help the body change vitamin B6 and folate into forms it can use. It is also important for body growth and red blood cell production.

Vitamin B2 deficiency

Vitamin B2 deficiency can have major impacts on the metabolization of carbohydrates, fat, and protein into energy. This can result in weakness or fatigue, severe mood swings, and full-scale depression.

A deficiency will primarily manifest in the skin and in the mucous membranes. The initial symptoms of a deficiency are a sore throat and the appearance of sores and cracks located at the corners of the mouth. General characteristic signs of a vitamin B2 deficiency can include lesions on the skin (particularly at the corners of the mouth), and a sore, red, or burning tongue. As symptoms get worse, the tongue and throat may become a swollen or inflamed.

A deficiency can lead to various problems with the skin, such as dry, flaky, cracked skin and seborrheic dermatitis (scaly/flaky skin located on the scalp, face, or body). It could also cause hair to be dull or oily, oily skin, wrinkling of the skin on the arms and face, and splitting of finger and toenails.

A deficiency of vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) can lead to eye disorders including bloodshot eyes, burning eyes, cataracts or increased sensitivity to bright light.

It can also result in anemia and possibly impaired nervous system function. Vitamin B2 deficiency can also be a risk factor for the following nervous system disorders, as anxiety, numbness and tingling, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis.

Several studies suggest that people who get migraines may reduce how often they get migraines and how long they last by taking riboflavin. One double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that taking 400 mg of riboflavin a day cut the number of migraine attacks in half. The study did not compare riboflavin to conventional medications used to prevent migraines, however, so more research is needed.

Groups of Risk

There are very few cases of Vitamin B2 Riboflavin deficiency among those people who eat a well balanced recommended diet. The problem is that very few people actually eat a “standard” diet. For this reason there are a few groups of people who have a very difficult time getting sufficient Vitamin B2 Riboflavin in their diet:

1. Vegetarians
People who abstain from animal meats and animal products have a difficult time getting enough Vitamin B2 Riboflavin in their daily diet. There are many vegetables which are very rich in Vitamin B2 Riboflavin; however, many of these vegetables are eaten enough in a healthy vegetarian diet. Vitamin B2 Riboflavin is most prominent in green vegetables (such as asparagus and broccoli). While these vegetables items do contain higher amounts of Vitamin B2 Riboflavin, compared to other vegetables sources, they do not contain the same amounts as higher animal product items. Animal sources like cow milk (and other dairy products), eggs, meats, and liver all contain substantially more Vitamin B2 Riboflavin than vegetable sources.

2. Alcohol Abusers
The simple fact remains that people who are heavy drinkers are much more likely to have all kinds of vitamin deficiencies compared to those who don’t drink any type of alcohol. Still those people who are alcoholics are very likely to be suffering from a Vitamin B2 Riboflavin deficiency.

The heavy alcohol consumers normally don’t eat a well rounded diet of healthy meats, fruits, and vegetables. The majority of their calories come from alcoholic sugar, and that will once again lead to vitamin deficiency. Studies have shown people with Vitamin B2 Riboflavin deficiency are more likely to have depression. Mixed with extensive alcohol use, people with Vitamin B2 Riboflavin deficiency are much more likely to have alcohol depression and other harmful mental disorders. Studies have shown that the taking of Vitamin B2 Riboflavin has shown some improvement in cases of people who suffer from alcoholic depression.

3. Fad Dieters
Again those people who eat a recommended balanced diet have a much lower chance of having any type of Vitamin B2 Riboflavin deficiency; however, those people who engage in fad diets are not eating the recommended quantities of vitamins and minerals which the body requires to function correctly. The rise of popular fad diets has actually increased the number of vitamin deficiencies reported in the developed world.

Fad diets are normally constructed to limit where a person is getting their daily calories. The limitation of food sources will limit the amount of vitamin and minerals which are coming into a person’s daily diet. This means that if a person is seriously committed to a fad diet, then they are also seriously committed to not consuming the proper vitamins which their body needs. Vitamin B2 Riboflavin deficiency is very common among those people who eat a raw vegetarian diet, and also among people who go on some form of a liquid diet.

4. Women after Child Delivery
Postpartum depression is moderate to severe depression in a woman after she has given birth. It may occur soon after delivery or up to a year later. Most of the time, it occurs within the first 3 months after delivery. The recent study provided substantial evidence that B2-vitamin riboflavin may prevent postpartum depression. There were 850 Japanese women who self-reported consumption of select nutrients during pregnancy. It found that during the third quartile, B2 was the only nutrient determined to reduce postpartum depression.

5. Elderly
Elderly people are more vulnerable to the vitamin B2 deficiency.

Dietary Food Sources

The best sources of riboflavin include brewer's yeast, almonds, organ meats, whole grains, wheat germ, wild rice, mushrooms, soybeans, milk, yogurt, eggs, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and spinach. Flours and cereals are often fortified with riboflavin.

Riboflavin is destroyed by light, so food should be stored away from light to protect its riboflavin content. While riboflavin is not destroyed by heat, it can be lost in water when foods are boiled or soaked. During cooking, roasting, and steaming preserves more riboflavin than frying or scalding.


The dosage underneath is the (RDA), but be aware that this dosage is the minimum that you require per day, to ward off serious deficiency of this particular nutrient. In the therapeutic use of this nutrient, the dosage is usually increased considerably. For adults:
  • Men 19 years and older: 1.3 mg (RDA)
  • Women 19 years and older: 1.1 mg (RDA)
  • Pregnant women: 1.4 mg (RDA)
  • Breastfeeding women: 1.6 mg (RDA)
Riboflavin is best absorbed when taken between meals. Extra might be needed when consuming alcohol, antibiotics, and birth control pills or doing strenuous exercise. If you are under a lot of stress or on a calorie-restricted diet, this vitamin could also be of use.

Vitamin B2 works with vitamin B1, vitamin B3, and vitamin B6. For that reason, vitamin B2 is often taken as part of a B-complex supplement.

Sources and Additional Information:


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