Best supplements for the brain: Riboflavin improves brain function and reduces headaches

Neurologist explains symptoms of ‘thunderclap’ headaches

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Chronic migraines can make a difference in how the brain looks and acts over time. However, with the right treatment, a person may be able to tame and even reverse the changes in the brain brought on by migraine attacks. Supplementing with riboflavin improves brain health and reduces headaches.

The brain is by far the most metabolically active organ in the body, representing only 2 percent of body weight but accounting for over 20 percent of the body’s total energy expenditure.

The B vitamins’ general metabolic functions, alongside their roles in neurochemical synthesis has a particular impact on brain function.

In particular, vitamin B2 or riboflavin, has been shown to improve brain health and reduce headaches.

Having a riboflavin deficiency is associated with its own broad negative consequences for brain function.

Research has yet to show how or why vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, helps prevent migraines.

It may have an effect on the way cells metabolize energy, according to Dr Mark Green, professor of neurology, anaesthesiology, and rehabilitation medicine, and a director of headache and pain medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Although the evidence from research is limited, he’s optimistic about vitamin B-2’s potential for treating migraines.

“Among the few vitamins I use in my clinical practice, it helps more often than the others many neurologists use,” he added.

One study looked at supplementation with Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) for migraine prophylaxis in adults and children.

Migraine is a unilateral and pulsating headache associated with nausea, photophobia, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, noted the study.

It continued: “Low vitamin B2 can lead to mitochondrial dysfunction and may have an effect on migraine pathogenesis.”

The results of the study found indicated that supplementation with vitamin B2 in adults can play a positive role in reducing the frequency and duration of migraine attacks with no serious side effects.

“It seems that riboflavin is a safe and well-tolerated option for preventing migraine symptoms in adults, however, there is insufficient evidence to make recommendations regarding vitamin B2 as an adjunct therapy in adults and children with migraine,” concluded the study.

Food sources for riboflavin to help improve brain health and reduce headaches include:

  • Fish, meat, and poultry, such as turkey, chicken, beef, kidneys, and liver
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Avocados
  • Cayenne
  • Currants
  • Fortified cereals
  • Lima beans, navy beans, and peas
  • Molasses
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts

According to Oregon State University, the recommended daily allowance of vitamin B2 in for men aged 19 years and over is 1.3 milligrams per day, and for women, it is 1.1 milligram per day.

During pregnancy, women should have 1.4 milligrams per day, and when breastfeeding, 1.6 milligrams per day.

Vitamin B2 is water soluble, so cooking foods can cause it to be lost.

About twice as much B2 is lost through boiling as it is through steaming or microwaving.
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