The Health Benefits of D-Ribose

This supplement fights fatigue at the cellular level to boost energy

Performance powder
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Ribose is a sugar molecule that occurs naturally in the body and is made from blood glucose. It is a key component of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule involved in storing and releasing energy, and ribonucleic acid (RNA), a molecule involved in protein synthesis and other cell activities. Also known as D-ribose, it is sold as a nutritional supplement to reduce fatigue and improve athletic performance. The synthetic form of this supplement is called N-ribose.

Ribose shows some promise as a treatment for people with energy deficits, such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, and is popular among athletes looking to increase energy, boost stamina, and enhance athletic performance.

Health Benefits 

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

Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue

D-ribose shows promise in the treatment of fibromyalgia and myalgic encephalomyelitis, better known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME-CFS). A 2017 review of dietary modifications for chronic fatigue patients reports that D-ribose supplementation significantly improved energy levels and overall mood.

In a pilot study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 41 patients with fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue syndrome who were given ribose supplements, 66 percent of the patients showed 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 the two conditions by increasing the production of energy in the heart and muscles. However, more research is needed.

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 and the other published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2001—failed to find supporting evidence and suggest that ribose supplements may have no effect on athletic performance.

Heart Failure Recovery

Ribose supplements may be of some benefit to heart failure patients. In a 2015 study, Ohio State University researchers gave a small sample of congestive heart failure (CHF) patients 5 grams of D-ribose daily for six weeks. Measurements of heart function improved in 64 percent of subjects, and those improvements were sustained in follow-up assessments three weeks after ceasing supplementation.

Earlier research published in the European Journal of Heart Failure found D-ribose supplements enhanced the quality of life and improved certain measures of cardiac function in CHF patients. In the study, 15 patients were given either D-ribose or a placebo daily for three weeks, then after a one-week break patients were switched over to the alternate treatment for another three weeks.

While the research is promising, it is limited to small sample sizes and animal studies.

The American College of Cardiology Foundation and American Heart Association's 2013 CHF practice guidelines do not recommend nutritional supplements in the treatment of CHF.

Possible Side Effects

D-ribose is generally considered safe for short-term use. However, possible side effects include diarrhea, stomach discomfort, nausea, headache, and low blood sugar.

People who have diabetes and are taking blood-glucose-lowering medications, such as insulin or sulfonylureas, and patients with hypoglycemia should avoid supplementing with D-ribose, as it may lower blood sugar.

If you are having surgery, do not take D-ribose. It is recommended to stop supplementation at least two weeks prior to scheduled surgery, as the supplement may make it difficult to maintain blood sugar levels.

There is not enough evidence to support its safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and it is not recommended for use at those times.

Dosage and Preparation 

Ribose is sold as both ribose and D-ribose in capsules and powder. Since it is a naturally occurring sugar, it tastes sweet. The powder can be mixed with water or juice and can be used to make beverages like lemonade.

There is no standard recommended dosage of D-ribose. Based on scientific studies, alternative health practitioners recommend between 5 grams and 30 grams a day to support chronic health conditions. As a workout enhancer, 5 grams a day is the common dose.

What to Look For 

When selecting a brand of supplements, look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLabs, the U.S. Pharmacopeia, or NSF International.

Other Questions 

Will D-ribose raise my blood sugar?

Ribose is a naturally occurring sugar, but it does not impact blood sugar the same as sucrose or fructose. Some research suggests ribose may increase insulin production, resulting in lower blood sugar levels, hence the restrictions for use in those with hypoglycemia or who are taking related medications.

Will ribose help me gain muscle?

There is limited to research to suggest that ribose improves athletic performance, but it is still a popular supplement for fitness enthusiasts. On its own, it will not increase muscle mass. However, it may help you be less sore between workouts.

A Word From Verywell 

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend D-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 D-ribose supplements in the treatment of any chronic condition, talk to your doctor before starting your supplement regimen.

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