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Health Benefits of Ribose Supplements

Can Ribose Rev Up Your Energy?

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Updated July 12, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Ribose is a sugar that occurs naturally in the body. Made from glucose (blood sugar), ribose is a key component of adenosine triphosphate (or ATP, a molecule involved in storing and releasing energy) and ribonucleic acid (or RNA, a molecule involved in protein synthesis and other cell activities). Sometimes referred to as d-ribose, ribose is also available in supplement form.

Health Benefits of Ribose Supplements:

To date, there is limited scientific evidence to support the use of ribose supplements for any health condition. Here's a look at some key findings from the available research on ribose supplements:

1) Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A pilot study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2006 studied 41 patients with fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue syndrome who were given ribose supplements. By the study's end, 66 percent of the patients had experienced significant improvement in symptoms (such as lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, and pain).

Both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are marked by impaired energy metabolism. The study's authors suggest that ribose may help treat fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome by increasing the production of energy in the heart and muscles. However, more research is needed.

2) Athletic Performance

Although ribose supplements are widely touted as a natural remedy for enhancing exercise endurance, two small studies (one published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism in 2003, the other published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2001) suggest that ribose supplements may have no effect on athletic performance.

3) Heart Failure Recovery

Ribose supplements may be of some benefit to heart failure patients, suggests a small study published in the European Journal of Heart Failure in 2003. For three weeks, 15 patients with congestive heart failure were treated with either ribose supplements or a placebo. After taking a one-week break, the patients were switched over to the alternate treatment for another three weeks. Study results revealed that the ribose supplements enhanced quality of life and improved certain measures of cardiac function.

Uses for Ribose Supplements

Proponents claim that ribose supplements can prevent or treat a variety of health problems, including chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. In addition, some people take ribose supplements in an effort to increase energy and enhance athletic performance.

Side Effects of Ribose

Although ribose is generally considered safe for short-term use, it may cause a number of side effects (including nausea, diarrhea, headache, and low blood sugar).

Using Ribose Supplements for Health Purposes

If you're considering the use of ribose supplements in treatment of any chronic condition, talk to your doctor before starting your supplement regimen.

Sources

Kreider RB, Melton C, Greenwood M, Rasmussen C, Lundberg J, Earnest C, Almada A. "Effects of oral D-ribose supplementation on anaerobic capacity and selected metabolic markers in healthy males." Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003 Mar;13(1):76-86.

Omran H, Illien S, MacCarter D, St Cyr J, Lüderitz B. "D-Ribose improves diastolic function and quality of life in congestive heart failure patients: a prospective feasibility study." Eur J Heart Fail. 2003 Oct;5(5):615-9.

Op 't Eijnde B, Van Leemputte M, Brouns F, Van Der Vusse GJ, Labarque V, Ramaekers M, Van Schuylenberg R, Verbessem P, Wijnen H, Hespel P. "No effects of oral ribose supplementation on repeated maximal exercise and de novo ATP resynthesis." J Appl Physiol. 2001 Nov;91(5):2275-81.

Teitelbaum JE, Johnson C, St Cyr J. "The use of D-ribose in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia: a pilot study." J Altern Complement Med. 2006 Nov;12(9):857-62.

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