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What Is the Vitamin Deficiency That Causes Cheilosis?

by
author image Natalie Stein
Natalie Stein specializes in weight loss and sports nutrition. She is based in Los Angeles and is an assistant professor with the Program for Public Health at Michigan State University. Stein holds a master of science degree in nutrition and a master of public health degree from Michigan State University.
What Is the Vitamin Deficiency That Causes Cheilosis?
A woman behind a cheese counter smiles at the camera. Photo Credit Getty Images/Photodisc/Getty Images

If you are exhibiting cracks on the outside of your lips, you're likely experiencing cheliosis, a condition commonly caused by a deficiency of riboflavin, or vitamin B-2. A balanced diet can usually provide enough riboflavin to prevent cheliosis. A nutritionist can help you develop a nutritionally adequate meal plan, and your doctor can evaluate other possible causes of cheliosis, such as vitamin B-6 deficiency.

Functions and Deficiency

You need riboflavin, or vitamin B-2, for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins from your diet into energy for your body, according to the Linus Pauling Institute micronutrient information center. Riboflavin also supports antioxidant activity. A riboflavin deficiency usually occurs when you have other nutritional deficiencies, such as a lack of other B vitamins, and it can lead to cheliosis, or cracked lips, as well as a sore throat, inflamed tongue and abnormal red blood cell development. Riboflavin deficiency is a risk factor for preeclampsia, or high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Requirements and Risk Factors

The recommended dietary allowance for riboflavin is 1.3 mg for adult men, 1.1 mg for adult women and 1.4 to 1.6 mg for pregnant or nursing women, according to the Institute of Medicine. Alcoholics are often at risk for deficiency because of an unbalanced diet and decreased absorption of riboflavin from food, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Individuals with hypothyroidism and exceptionally physically active individuals, such as athletes, may have higher needs.

Food Sources

Fortified cereal is a major source of riboflavin, with each serving having about 0.6 to 2.3 mg. Natural sources include milk, meat, poultry, fish, eggs and cheese, as well as some vegetables and whole grains. For their grain products to be considered fortified, manufacturers must add riboflavin, along with thiamine, niacin, iron and folic acid, after processing, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Other Information

The Institute of Medicine has not established an upper level of intake for riboflavin because there are no known cases of toxicity from riboflavin. If you have too much, you will likely experience flavinuria, or a bright yellow color in your urine, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. A riboflavin supplement, often as part of a multivitamin supplement, can help you meet your needs if you are not getting enough from your diet and you have cheliosis. Consult your doctor before taking a riboflavin supplement or any other dietary supplement.

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