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Riboflavin Deficiency, MTHFR, And High Blood Pressure

Written by Jim Duncan, MSW | Last updated:

Genomics is full of surprises. Initially, one would not have suspected that riboflavin deficiency could interact with MTHFR and impact your blood pressure. So much research is happening around the world that it feels like discoveries are being made on a daily basis. It is truly amazing. Read on to find out more about vitamin B2, the MTHFR gene, and how they are connected to blood pressure!

What Is Riboflavin and MTHFR?

So, let’s look at vitamin B2, otherwise known as riboflavin. It plays major roles in energy production, cellular function, and metabolism of fats, as well as maintaining the balance of homocysteine in the blood [1]. Foods high in riboflavin include:

  • Lean meats
  • Spinach
  • Eggs
  • Milk

The MTHFR gene codes for an enzyme, also called MTHFR (a really long name I’m not even going to try to make you pronounce), that helps us use vitamin B9, otherwise known as folate or folic acid. This vitamin helps the body produce red blood cells, and those with the MTHFR 677 TT genotype (two T variants) may have about 16% less folic acid in their blood [2, 3, 4, 5].

Riboflavin deficiency and MTHFR

Blood Pressure Is A Common Problem

According to WHO, heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide [6]. When looking into preventing heart disease, one of the first things you see is to control your blood pressure[7]. It’s no surprise then, when it comes to researching the human genome, that blood pressure is a top priority.

A lot of studies have taken place over the past couple of decades related to this issue, and a lot of genetic links have been made to risks for high blood pressure. One of the fascinating elements of genomics though is how interconnected our DNA is, not only in how genes interact with other genes but in how our lives and the world around us connect back to it too.

How Are Riboflavin, MTHFR, And Blood Pressure Linked?

Somehow, the people carrying the MTHFR 677 TT genotype (rs1801133) are at much higher risk for high blood pressure if they have a riboflavin deficiency. Why? How does that even work?

The link between vitamin B2 and blood pressure has been studied since the early 2000’s. Several Asian studies have noted a link between low vitamin B2 consumption and high blood pressure [8, 9, 10]. Rural populations in many Asian countries subsist on rice-based diets that are low in this vitamin, so it’s no surprise that a riboflavin deficiency can be a common occurrence in these places.

Here in western countries, we would look at those studies and wouldn’t give them a second thought. Places where diets are high in meat and dairy usually provide plenty of vitamin B2, so supplementing it might not even cross our minds.

But then, on the other side of the globe, scientists in Ireland and Northern Ireland found that people with the MTHFR 677 ‘TT’ genotype may have a 40% greater risk of high blood pressure. Plus, if you carry this genotype, the effect of having low vitamin B2 is even more problematic and may increase the risk of high blood pressure up to 300% [2]! That’s huge!

How common are people with two ‘T’ variants? They range from around 10% in Europe and 20% in northern China, to 32% in Mexico. In the US, this variant is most common in Hispanics, less common in White people, and least common in Black people [11]. This is a great example of how genomes can vary across populations.

So, how in the world does folate affect blood pressure? New discoveries are made every day, and we do know that MTHFR needs vitamin B2 to work properly [12].

Optimizing Riboflavin In Your Diet

The good news is, if you carry two ‘T’ variants, getting more vitamin B2 may help decrease your risk of having high blood pressure. In fact, people with this mutation who already have high blood pressure may benefit from taking vitamin B2 on top of their medication [3]!

Good dietary sources of this vitamin include eggs, dairy, and lean and organ meats. If your diet is low in these foods, if you have an eating disorder, or drink a lot of alcohol, you may be at risk for having low B2 [13, 14, 1], so you may want to keep an eye on your vitamin levels.

How To Optimize Blood Pressure

The truth is, factors other than a riboflavin deficiency can play a huge role in your heart health, and MTHFR is just one of genes that can affect your blood pressure.

Overall, genes that influence blood pressure can affect:

  • Blood volume
  • Blood vessel width
  • Stress response
  • Breakdown of blood pressure-raising compounds

High blood pressure usually doesn’t produce any symptoms, so a preventive approach can help you stay ahead of the problem. Genetics may account for up to 50% of differences in blood pressure! So, getting your DNA tested can help you make targeted changes to your lifestyle to counteract your bad genes.

The SelfDecode Blood Pressure DNA report alone analyzes nearly 1.2 million genetic variants to tell how your genetics play a role in blood pressure, and gives you personalized recommendations to help you optimize your health.

If you’re interested in optimizing your blood pressure with a DNA-based approach, consider trying out SelfDecode for truly personalized health recommendations.

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About the Author

Jim Duncan

Jim completed his M.S.W. in Social Work Administration at Portland State University. He has always been interested in analyzing social issues, and he helped fund and start a program against domestic violence. He has also conducted many public speaking sessions about violence against women, and published 3 fiction novels. Inspired by SelfDecode’s mission to make precision health a reality, he decided to use his natural writing ability to help teach the world about the power and promise of genomics. His areas of interest include science-based writing,  astronomy, and genomics.


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