No adverse effects associated with riboflavin consumption from food or supplements have been reported. However, studies involving large doses of riboflavin (Schoenen et al., 1994; Stripp, 1965; Zempleni et al., 1996) have not been designed to systematically evaluate adverse effects. The limited evidence from studies involving large intakes of riboflavin is summarized here.
No adverse effects were reported in humans after single oral doses of up to 60 mg of supplemental riboflavin and 11.6 mg of riboflavin given intravenously as a single bolus dose (Zempleni et al., 1996). This study is of limited use in setting a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) because it was not designed to assess adverse effects. It is possible that chronic administration of these doses would pose some risk.
A study by Schoenen and coworkers (1994) reported no short-term side effects in 49 patients treated with 400 mg/day of riboflavin taken with meals for at least 3 months. Schoenen and coworkers (1994) reported that one patient receiving riboflavin and aspirin withdrew from the study because of gastric upset. This isolated finding may be an anomaly because no side effects were reported in other patients.
The apparent lack of harm resulting from high oral doses of riboflavin may be due to its limited solubility and limited capacity for absorption in the human gastrointestinal tract (Levy and Jusko, 1966; Stripp, 1965; Zempleni et al., 1996); its rapid excretion in the urine (McCormick, 1994). Zempleni et al. (1996) showed that the maximal amount of riboflavin that was absorbed from a single oral dose was 27 mg. A study by Stripp (1965) found limited absorption of 50 to 500 mg of riboflavin with no adverse effects. The poor intestinal absorption of riboflavin is well recognized: riboflavin taken by mouth is sometimes used to mark the stool in experimental studies. There are no data from animal studies suggesting that uptake of riboflavin during pregnancy presents a potential hazard for the fetus or newborn.
The only evidence of adverse effects associated with riboflavin comes from in vitro studies showing the formation of active oxygen species on intense exposure to visible or ultraviolet light (Ali et al., 1991; Floersheim, 1994; Spector et al., 1995). However, because there are no demonstrated functional or structural adverse effects in humans or animals after excess riboflavin intake, the relevance