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Riboflavin for Children with Migraine – What You Need to Know

Under: Migraine & Headache, Nutrients

Riboflavin a.k.a. vitamin B-2 has been shown in clinical studies to be highly beneficial for children and adults who suffer migraines and is listed in the American Academy of Neurology’s Guidelines for Migraine Prevention.

About one out of every 10 kids or nearly 8 million children in the United States alone are plagued by what has become the most common acute and recurrent headache pattern experienced by children today.  Migraine pain can disrupt and impair the quality of life for children of all ages. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, about 5% of elementary school-age children may experience migraine headaches and the physical and emotional stress they cause. This statistic jumps to 20 percent by the time a child reaches high school.    A child who has one parent with migraine has a 50% chance of inheriting it, and if both parents have migraines, the chances rise to 75%.  Before age 10, an equal number of boys and girls get migraines but after age 12 during and after puberty, migraines affect girls three times more than boys.

What makes riboflavin a great natural option for kids with chronic migraine?

Migraine symptoms interrupt the normal activities of 65-80% of young migraineurs. In addition to possible emotional changes such as sadness and anxiety affecting the quality of a child’s life, it is well known that many frequently used prescription migraine medications have adverse side-effects in children including dizziness, sleep disturbance, and even marked fatigue making the prevention of future migraines the main focus of neurologists, doctors and parents alike.

migraine in children

With the limited effectiveness of current preventive therapies, the use of complementary and alternative medicine has been increasing in headache management especially the use of Riboflavin (B-2).  Riboflavin has a variety of functions, from aiding in the manufacture of red blood cells to assisting in the extraction of energy from carbohydrates, protein, and fat.  It has been known to: increase cellular energy production via tiny “energy factories” in the brain cells called mitochondria.

Mitochondrial dysfunction is believed to play a role in migraine pathophysiology. Riboflavin is a precursor in the mitochondrial electron transport chain and a cofactor in the Krebs cycle, the sequence of reactions by which most living cells generate energy during the process of aerobic respiration. It takes place in the mitochondria, consuming oxygen, producing carbon dioxide and water as waste products, and converting ADP to energy-rich ATP.

Specifically, riboflavin is a precursor (a substance from which another substance is formed) of flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) and riboflavin-5 phosphate (FMN). These coenzymes are important components of the electron-transport chain where most of the energy cells need to operate is generated. This “chain” is actually a series of protein complexes and electron carrier molecules within the inner membrane of cell mitochondria. A deficiency of mitochondrial energy reserves has been observed in many people exhibiting poor cerebrovascular tone (brain blood vessels). This defect may be corrected by a compound such as riboflavin that improves the activity of the electron-transport chain.

Multiple studies have demonstrated that high dose riboflavin can reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines when taken in high doses.

  • 400 mg riboflavin for adults
  • 200 mg riboflavin for children age 2-12

A study published in The Journal of Headache and Pain found high-dose riboflavin to be a well-tolerated and low-cost preventative treatment in children and adolescents suffering from migraines.  Previous studies have shown that riboflavin is easily tolerable and very effective for preventing migraines in adults.

The study reported on the experience and effects of using riboflavin for migraine prophylaxis in 41 pediatric and adolescent patients, who received 200 or 400 mg/day single oral dose of riboflavin for 3, 4 or 6 months. Attack frequency and intensity decreased during treatment and these results were confirmed during the follow-up.  During the follow-up, 68.4% of cases had a 50% or greater reduction in the frequency of attacks and 21% in intensity. **

Riboflavin isn’t the only supplement with strong clinical evidence showing it can help block migraines before they start: Magnesium and the herb Feverfew have also been shown in clinical studies to prevent migraines. Learn More.