Riboflavin shows positive link with mental health in obese individuals

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages - Brain scan / Andrew Brookes
GettyImages - Brain scan / Andrew Brookes

Related tags riboflavin B vitamins Antioxidant Anti-inflammatory Mental health mental wellness Oxidative stress

Dietary riboflavin is associated with improved mental wellbeing in people living with obesity, a new cross-sectional study has concluded.

The study, conducted by authors from Greece, found that riboflavin (Vitamin B2) was positively associated with mental component score (MCS-12 log)highlighting the importance of monitoring both nutritional status and mental health when managing obesity . 

The authors conclude: “Taking into consideration not only the neuroprotective potential of riboflavin but also its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in obesity, our results are of great importance.

“Our study provides evidence of the link between dietary riboflavin and mental health in people with obesity, and it highlights the importance of monitoring both nutritional status and mental health when managing obesity.”


Over the past five decades, obesity has become a global epidemic​ and is strongly linked​ to health issues like type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, fatty liver disease, and various cancers, putting a significant economic burden on society. 

This condition is driven by factors​ including unhealthy eating habits, a sedentary lifestyle, genetics, and environmental influences.

Paradoxically, people living with obesity are usually malnourished due to their insufficient intake​ or reduced absorption of essential nutrients. 

The authors suggest that this is due to “modern agricultural systems​’ focus on intensive food production and quantity rather than the quality of the produce, which leads to the production of nutrient-deficient foods.” 

Micronutrient deficiencies in obese individuals can also result from inflammation associated with obesity​, impacting nutrient absorption and metabolism. 

Obesity-related micronutrient deficiencies encompass minerals (calcium, iron, zinc, selenium) and vitamins (C, E, B complex). 

These deficiencies can disrupt metabolic and regulatory processes like energy metabolism, protein synthesis, and immune function.

For instance, B vitamins influence immune functions​, and play critical roles in the nervous system, with deficiencies having been previously linked to neurological issues​ like depression and neuropathy. 

Despite these connections between obesity and micronutrient deficiencies, the authors note that few studies have explored the relationship between mental health and micronutrient intake in obese individuals with metabolic problems.

Previous research​ has indicated that mental health is linked to inflammation in central obesity, and as micronutrients influence immune function and inflammatory pathways, the study aimed to investigate how dietary intake of vitamins and minerals relates to mental health in Greek adults with central obesity (an excess accumulation of fat in the abdominal area) and associated metabolic disorders.

The study

The study consisted of 100 participants, male (39%) and female (61%), who had been diagnosed with central obesity.

After overnight fasting, blood samples were drawn from each individual, and daily nutritional intakes were found to be under the RDAs in most of the micronutrients examined in both sexes. 

Validated questionnaires were used to assess general quality of life characteristics, including 20 items covering mood, somatic complaints, social interactions, and motor performance.

Mental health (measured by MCS-12) positively correlated with vitamin A (Rho = 0.249, p​ = 0.038), vitamin C (Rho = 0.293, p​ = 0.014), riboflavin (Rho = 0.264, p​ = 0.026), and folate (Rho = 0.238, p​ = 0.046). In addition, RSES correlated with sodium (Rho = 0.269, p​ = 0.026) and CESD-R with chromium (Rho = 0.313, p​ = 0.009).

After the final model adjustment, riboflavin was positively associated with the MCS-12 log (beta ± SD = 0.047 ± 0.023, p​ = 0.044), however applying regression models and controlling for the relevant confounders revealed no significant relationships in any of the other notable correlations. 

The significant finding was the positive link between mental health and riboflavin intake, which the authors note has neuroprotective and immunomodulatory properties, that when lacking, affects brain function​.

As the authors explain, the vitamin B complex plays a crucial role in obesity and metabolic health by aiding in various enzymatic processes, catabolic energy production, and anabolic pathways.

They suggest that riboflavin's anti-inflammatory properties may indirectly impact mental health in obese individuals, and it has previously been shown​ that riboflavin can inhibit inflammation in adipocyte and macrophage co-cultures, suggesting that its supplementation may regulate inflammation in obesity. 

The authors conclude: “The role of the vitamin B complex in obesity and metabolic health is pivotal, as its constituents act as coenzymes in several enzymatic processes and are involved in catabolic energy production and anabolic pathways.” 

They do however state: “We acknowledge that a causal relationship between riboflavin intake and mental health could not be established due to the cross-sectional design of the study, in addition to the relatively small sample size of the population used.”


Journal: Nutrients


“Mental Health Component Scale Is Positively Associated with Riboflavin Intake in People with Central Obesity.”

Authors: Charalampia Amerikanou, Aristea Gioxari, Stamatia-Angeliki Kleftaki, Evdokia Valsamidou, Antonia Zeaki , and Andriana C. Kaliora.

Related topics Research Cognitive function

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