Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2 is an easily absorbed colored micronutrient with a key role in maintaining health in humans and other animals. It is the central component of the cofactors FAD and FMN, and is therefore required by all flavoproteins. As such, vitamin B2 is required for a wide variety of cellular processes. It plays a key role in energy metabolism, and for the metabolism of fats, ketone bodies, carbohydrates, and proteins.
Milk, cheese, leaf vegetables, liver, kidneys, legumes, yeast, mushrooms, and almonds are good sources of vitamin B2.
The name "riboflavin" comes from "ribose" (the sugar whose reduced form, ribitol, forms part of its structure) and "flavin", the ring-moiety which imparts the yellow color to the oxidized molecule (from Latin flavus, "yellow"). The reduced form, which occurs in metabolism along with the oxidized form, is colorless.
Riboflavin is best known visually as the vitamin which imparts the orange color to solid B-vitamin preparations, the yellow color to vitamin supplement solutions, and the unusual fluorescent-yellow color to the urine of persons who supplement with high-dose B-complex preparations.Riboflavin can be used as a deliberate orange-red food color additive, and as such is designated in Europe as the E number E101.
Role in Health Support
Like all the B vitamins, riboflavin plays a key role in energy production. Its role here is complicated—it is important both for the energy-producing electron transport chain and the metabolism of fat molecules into fuel. Additionally, riboflavin plays a role in the chemistry of other nutrients involved in energy production, including folate and vitamin B6.
Riboflavin is one of many nutrients required to recycle oxidized glutathione—one of the most important antioxidants in the human body—back into its active reduced form.
The best protection against free radicals comes from foods that are rich in many different antioxidants. Examples of good riboflavin sources that would fit this description include spinach, collard greens, and broccoli, among others.
Marginal riboflavin status has been found to impair the ability to make red blood cells, leading to a condition called anemia. There is some debate about how this occurs, with some scientists believing that riboflavin is necessary to mobilize iron from storage to incorporate into cells, and others believing that riboflavin deficiency impairs iron absorption.
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