Vitamin B1 and B2: Potential Benefits

Not all nutrients have the same degree of popularity. For every rockstar like vitamin D there’s a lesser known nutrient which hasn’t had its moment in the spotlight. Two such nutrients are vitamins B1 and B2 and today I will attempt to touch on some of the reasons you may want to consider your intake of these vitamins.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

In a study on 20 young women a daily 50mg thiamine supplement for 2 months increased reaction time (1). An older study from the 1940’s on children in an orphanage found that children given a 2mg thiamine supplement, compared to children given a placebo, had greater improvements in a number of markers of intelligence and memory (2).

Very high dose thiamine supplements have also been shown to improve blood sugar control in type 2 diabetics (3-5).

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Some evidence suggests riboflavin (vitamin B2) prevents migraines (6-10). One randomized study lasting 3 month reported a reduced rate of migraines due to a daily 400mg riboflavin supplement compared to a placebo (10). However a randomized trial on 48 children reported no benefit from riboflavin on migraine risk (11). A similar study on children also found no benefit on migraines from riboflavin, but did observe reduction in tension headaches (12).

Finally, a study in over 2000 people in the Hebei province of China found that riboflavin supplemented salt, compared to un-supplemented salt, reduced the risk of esophageal squamous cell cancer and non-significantly reduced the risk of all esophageal cancers (13).


1. Benton D, Griffiths R, Haller J. Thiamine supplementation mood and cognitive functioning. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1997 Jan;129(1):66-71.

2. RUTH F. HARRELL MENTAL RESPONSE TO ADDED THIAMINE Department of Educational Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York

3. González-Ortiz M, Martínez-Abundis E, Robles-Cervantes JA, Ramírez-Ramírez V, Ramos-Zavala MG. Effect of thiamine administration on metabolic profile, cytokines and inflammatory markers in drug-naïve patients with type 2 diabetes.Eur J Nutr. 2011 Mar;50(2):145-9. doi: 10.1007/s00394-010-0123-x. Epub 2010 Jul 21. PubMed PMID: 20652275.

4. Alaei Shahmiri F, Soares MJ, Zhao Y, Sherriff J. High-dose thiamine supplementation improves glucose tolerance in hyperglycemic individuals: a randomized, double-blind cross-over trial. Eur J Nutr. 2013 Oct;52(7):1821-4.

5. Rabbani N, Alam SS, Riaz S, Larkin JR, Akhtar MW, Shafi T, Thornalley PJ. High-dose thiamine therapy for patients with type 2 diabetes and microalbuminuria: a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled pilot study. Diabetologia. 2009 Feb;52(2):208-12

6. Condò M, Posar A, Arbizzani A, Parmeggiani A. Riboflavin prophylaxis in pediatric and adolescent migraine. J Headache Pain. 2009 Oct;10(5):361-5.

7. Boehnke C, Reuter U, Flach U, Schuh-Hofer S, Einhäupl KM, Arnold G. High-dose riboflavin treatment is efficacious in migraine prophylaxis: an open study in a tertiary care centre. Eur J Neurol. 2004 Jul;11(7):475-7.

8. Sándor PS, Afra J, Ambrosini A, Schoenen J. Prophylactic treatment of migraine with beta-blockers and riboflavin: differential effects on the intensity dependence of auditory evoked cortical potentials. Headache. 2000 Jan;40(1):30-5.

9. Maizels M, Blumenfeld A, Burchette R. A combination of riboflavin, magnesium, and feverfew for migraine prophylaxis: a randomized trial. Headache. 2004 Oct;44(9):885-90.

10. Schoenen J, Jacquy J, Lenaerts M. Effectiveness of high-dose riboflavin in migraine prophylaxis. A randomized controlled trial. Neurology. 1998,Feb;50(2):466-70.

11. MacLennan SC, Wade FM, Forrest KM, Ratanayake PD, Fagan E, Antony J. High-dose riboflavin for migraine prophylaxis in children: a double-blind, randomized,placebo-controlled trial. J Child Neurol. 2008 Nov;23(11):1300-4.

12. Bruijn J, Duivenvoorden H, Passchier J, Locher H, Dijkstra N, Arts WF. Medium-dose riboflavin as a prophylactic agent in children with migraine: a preliminary placebo-controlled, randomised, double-blind, cross-over trial. Cephalalgia. 2010 Dec;30(12):1426-34

13. He Y, Ye L, Shan B, Song G, Meng F, Wang S. Effect of riboflavin-fortified salt nutrition intervention on esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in a high incidence area, China. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2009 Oct-Dec;10(4):619-22.


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