D-ribose supplements are taken to improve cardiovascular health, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
They are also taken to aid in muscle recovery after exercise and are found in many post workout mixes.
D-ribose is a sugar-like molecule that your body uses to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — the energy-carrying molecule that is used for many metabolic processes. When energy is needed by the cell, it is converted from storage molecules into ATP. ATP then delivers energy to places within the cell where energy-consuming activities are taking place (1).
D-ribose beneficial to those afflicted with ischemic cardiovascular diseases. Myocardial ischemia is commonly found in those with cardiovascular disease. It is a condition in which blood flow to the heart is reduced, thereby preventing it from getting enough needed oxygen (2). Complications of this condition include heart attack, irregular heart rhythm and heart failure.
Myocardial ischemia is known to lower cellular energy levels, which affects a cell’s integrity and function. Scientists have reported that the failing heart is energy starved and are on the search for treatments directed at replenishing deficient cellular energy levels.
According to a paper published in Recent Patents on Cardiovascular Drug Discovery, researchers have found compelling evidence that D-ribose has the ability to significantly replenish deficient cellular energy levels following myocardial ischemia. Clinical trials have also found it beneficial to those who are diagnosed with congestive heart failure (3).
D-ribose improves quality of life of congestive heart failure patients. In a study published in the European Journal of Heart Failure, researchers performed a trial to assess the effect of oral D-ribose supplementation in 15 patients with chronic coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure.
Supplementation revealed the beneficial effects of D-ribose by improving diastolic functional parameters and enhancing quality of life in the tested patients. In contrast, those who received a placebo did not show significant changes or an improvement in quality of life (4).
In a clinical review published in Experimental & Clinical Cardiology, authors summarized the findings of other human clinical studies showing similar benefits from D-ribose supplementation.
One study reported that daily doses of D-ribose enabled patients with stable severe coronary artery disease to exercise longer with fewer symptoms or potential electrocardiographic changes.
The results of a 2001 study reported significant benefits of taking D-ribose daily in patients with class II and III congestive heart failure, namely an improvement in diastolic compliance with comparable measurements pertaining to left atrial function. Supplementation also demonstrated a significant improvement in quality of life and physical activity (5).
D-ribose helps reduce symptoms in those suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are debilitating conditions that are believed to be associated with impaired cellular energy metabolism.
A 2006 pilot study was performed to evaluate if D-ribose could improve symptoms in patients suffering from these conditions. Forty-one patients were given a dose of 5 g three times a day for a total of 280 g. Five categories evaluated were: energy, sleep, mental clarity, pain intensity and well-being.
Approximately 66 percent of patients experienced significant improvement while on D-ribose, with an average increase in energy of 45 percent and an average improvement in overall well-being of 30 percent (8).
While encouraging, this study did not include a placebo group or long-term follow up. More in-depth studies are needed.
In another study, a 37-year-old woman with symptoms of intense musculoskeletal pain and stiffness, mental fogginess, bouts of diarrhea and sleep disturbance was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Standard drug treatment had limited benefit and produced adverse side effects.
When she added 5 g of D-ribose twice a day in addition to her other medication, she noted a decrease in her symptoms after 14 days. She also reported no adverse effects. After continuing to take D-ribose for another month, she reported near-normal functioning.
After electing to stop taking supplementation, the patient began to experience fibromyalgia-related symptoms within seven days. Once she resumed taking the supplement, her symptoms greatly subsided within 14 days (9).
D-ribose restores muscle ATP concentrations after intense workout. Skeletal muscle ATP levels are severely depleted during high intensity exercise sessions. Recovery from these lower ATP levels can take days, leaving muscles with that burning, wiped-out feeling.
In a study published in 2004, researchers subjected healthy males to seven days of intense cycling exercises twice a day. As expected, immediately after the last training session, muscle ATP was found to be low.
After training, they were supplemented with either ribose (200 mg/kg body weight) or placebo three times a day for three days. After 72 hours, muscle ATP concentrations in participants taking ribose supplementation were restored to normal levels, while the placebo group still remained low.
D-ribose appears to be safe when taken short-term by mouth or intravenously. Many of the short-term studies performed in humans showed it to be well-tolerated.
Some reported side effects include diarrhea, stomach discomfort, nausea and headache.
It has also been shown to cause a drop in blood sugar levels. Because of this, D-ribose interacts with diabetes medications (10).
Studies on side effects pertaining to long-term use have yet to be performed.
A maximum daily dose of 5 g (taken three times a day) is typically recommended.
As with any supplement, it is always best to first consult with your treating physician before taking, especially if you have a heart condition or diabetes.
D-ribose is a sugar-like molecule that your body uses to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Every cell requires adequate levels of ATP to maintain its energy level and function.
Scientists believe that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are associated with impaired cellular energy metabolism, while a failing heart is energy starved.
In their search for treatments directed at replenishing deficient cellular energy levels, researchers have focused their attention on D-ribose supplementation.
Supplementation has been shown to improve the quality of life of congestive heart failure patients and is beneficial to those who are diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
In fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome patients, D-ribose significantly increases energy levels and results in an overall improvement of symptoms and well-being.
This sugar-like molecule also has the ability to speed up the recovery of muscle ATP levels following exercise.
Coupled with current pharmaceutical treatments, supplementation of D-ribose could further advance therapies in treating patients afflicted with these diseases.