Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is a vitamin found in food and sold as a dietary supplement. It is essential to the formation of two major coenzymes, flavin mononucleotide and flavin adenine dinucleotide. These coenzymes are involved in energy metabolism, cellular respiration, and antibody production, as well as normal growth and development. The coenzymes are also required for the metabolism of niacin, vitamin B6, and folate. Riboflavin is prescribed to treat corneal thinning, and taken orally, may reduce the incidence of migraine headaches in adults.
Riboflavin deficiency is rare and is usually accompanied by deficiencies of other vitamins and nutrients. It may be prevented or treated by oral supplements or by injections. As a water-soluble vitamin, any riboflavin consumed in excess of nutritional requirements is not stored; it is either not absorbed or is absorbed and quickly excreted in urine, causing the urine to have a bright yellow tint. Natural sources of riboflavin include meat, fish and fowl, eggs, dairy products, green vegetables, mushrooms, and almonds. Some countries require its addition to grains.
Riboflavin was discovered in 1920, isolated in 1933, and first synthesized in 1935. In its purified, solid form, it is a water-soluble yellow-orange crystalline powder. In addition to its function as a vitamin, it is used as a food coloring agent. Biosynthesis takes place in bacteria, fungi and plants, but not animals. Industrial synthesis of riboflavin was initially achieved using a chemical process, but current commercial manufacturing relies on fermentation methods using strains of fungi and genetically modified bacteria.
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is a water-soluble vitamin and is one of the B vitamins. Unlike folate and vitamin B6, which occur in several chemically related forms known as vitamers, riboflavin is only one chemical compound. It is a starting compound in the synthesis of the coenzymes flavin mononucleotide (FMN, also known as riboflavin-5′-phosphate) and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD). FAD is the more abundant form of flavin, reported to bind to 75% of the number of flavin-dependent protein encoded genes in the all-species genome (the flavoproteome) and serves as a co-enzyme for 84% of human-encoded flavoproteins.
In its purified, solid form, riboflavin is a yellow-orange crystalline powder with a slight odor and bitter taste. It is soluble in polar solvents, such as water and aqueous sodium chloride solutions, and slightly soluble in alcohols. It is not soluble in non-polar or weakly polar organic solvents such as chloroform, benzene or acetone. In solution or during dry storage as a powder, riboflavin is heat stable if not exposed to light. When heated to decompose, it releases toxic fumes containing nitric oxide.
Treatment of corneal thinning
Keratoconus is the most common form of Corneal ectasia, a progressive thinning of the cornea. The condition is treated by corneal collagen cross-linking, which increases corneal stiffness. Cross-linking is achieved by applying a topical riboflavin solution to the cornea, which is then exposed to ultraviolet A light.
In its 2012 guidelines, the American Academy of Neurology stated that high-dose riboflavin (400 mg) is “probably effective and should be considered for migraine prevention,” a recommendation also provided by the UK National Migraine Centre. A 2017 review reported that daily riboflavin taken at 400 mg per day for at least three months may reduce the frequency of migraine headaches in adults. Research on high-dose riboflavin for migraine prevention or treatment in children and adolescents is inconclusive, and so supplements are not recommended.