Health Benefits of Ribose Supplements

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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.

Uses for Ribose Supplements

Some alternative medicine proponents claim that ribose supplements help with 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.

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 the quality of life and improved certain measures of cardiac function.

Caveats

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).

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. 

Using Ribose Supplements for Health 

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend ribose supplements for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering the use of ribose supplements in the treatment of any chronic condition, talk to your doctor before starting your supplement regimen.

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