During prenatal care, you will be reminded to take folic acid and calcium, but what about vitamin B2?
Vitamins in the B complex play an important role in supporting a healthy pregnancy and to the health of breastfeeding mothers.
Vitamin B2, part of the vitamin B complex is also known as Riboflavin. it is water soluble, which means that your body doesn't store it. You must replace them through your diet or prenatal vitamins.
Why vitamin B2 during pregnancy?
In general, there are many health benefits of vitamin B2:
• Headaches - Vitamin B2 can prevent headaches and treat migraine headaches. It reduces the pain you feel during a migraine attack and stops them from lasting too long.
• Energy - Vitamin B2 is an important part of the metabolic process. The body uses it to properly digest food to give us the energy we want. So without it, we don't process food properly and end up gaining weight and not having the energy to get through the day. Vitamin B2 breaks proteins down into their amino acid bases, fats and carbs by converting them into glucose; the main fuel of the body.
• Cancer - Vitamin B2 is responsible for the production of glutathione which removes these free radicals from breaking down our bodies and keeps the liver clean. Free radicals do a lot of damage to the body and are the main reason you get sick. (1)
During pregnancy, consumption of vitamin B2 lowers the risk of developing preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication. It also promotes the healthy development and growth of baby's bones, muscles and nerves. For moms, vitamin B2 helps your skin look glowing and refreshed! Don't you want to look radiant even when you are pregnant? This is also because vitamin B2 increases blood circulation for mother and foetus and helps prevent pregnancy-related anaemia.
Not only that! Breastfeeding mothers need even more vitamin B2 than pregnant mothers. Some women need up to 50% more daily intake of riboflavin than they did before pregnancy. To provide for the hungry baby, breast milk absorbs much of the vitamin B2 than the mother ingests.
How do you know if you are riboflavin deficient?
Anemia, magenta (dry and red tongue), skin rash, dermatitis, dryness and cracking around mouth, nose and lips are all signs of riboflavin deficiency (2). If you are on a special diet due to lactose intolerant, vegetarian or anorexia, then you are at higher risk of riboflavin deficiency. (3)
What dietary sources contains vitamin B2?
The best sources of riboflavin are almond, mushrooms, wild rice, milk, yogurt, eggs, broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach and whole grains. Flours and cereals are often fortified with riboflavin.
However, riboflavin can be destroyed by light. So food should be kept away from light to protect its riboflavin content. Although riboflavin is not destroyed by heat, it can be lost in water when foods are boiled or soak. The best way is to roast or steam the foods to preserve more riboflavin rather than frying or scalding your food.
Should you take a supplement?
YES - Although you can get enough riboflavin from a diet that includes grains, fairy products, meats, green vegetables and eggs, your doctor will advise you to take a prenatal supplements which provide the dietary reference intake (DRI) for riboflavin.
The recommended daily dietary intake for riboflavin (4)
• Women, 19 years and older: 1.1 mg (RDA)
• Pregnant women: 1.4 mg (RDA)
• Breastfeeding women: 1.6 mg (RDA)
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research