Could you find some migraine relief with a safe supplement that costs $5.00-$10.00 per month and is available at your drug store or Amazon? That is what some good studies say about riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2.
While there are several theories about the cause of migraine, one theory is that people with migraine (PWM) have abnormal brain energy metabolism. Sometimes I hear the term “mitochondrial dysfunction” bandied about. Riboflavin is involved in the mitochondrial respiratory chain and improves abnormalities in those with faulty metabolism in this important area. This understanding is what prompted a number of studies of riboflavin. Last month, a review of these studies on riboflavin and migraine was published with interesting information. Details can be found here.
Based on the review of studies, it seems that riboflavin is effective for a significant percentage of PWM. In one study, riboflavin was given to a group of participants and sodium valproate was given to the other group. In another study riboflavin was given to one group while propranolol was given to the other. Riboflavin was considered “non-inferior” to both common medications, sodium valproate and propranolol. Additionally, there were fewer side-effects reported in the riboflavin groups. So, would this “non-inferior” vitamin work for you? Perhaps.
Most of the studies used 400mg/day of riboflavin but some used lower amounts. For reference, the daily recommended intake for an adult woman is 1.1mg, so the dosages used in the studies were quite large. Based on what I have read in the referenced review as well as elsewhere, riboflavin is metabolized and cleared from our bodies quickly. Additionally, it’s unclear if the majority of the 400mg consumed is actually absorbed. That said, my personal approach to taking the supplement would be to spread it out in 2-3 doses and hope that doing so makes a difference. Duration was also important as the effects of riboflavin were more pronounced after 3 months.
A nice feature of using riboflavin as a preventative of migraine headache is its excellent tolerability and low cost. The American Academy of Neurology considers riboflavin a Level B evidence rating. This means that they consider it “probably effective” based on studies. It has been a while since I ran out of my riboflavin, but I’m going to get some more and see if it helps me.