Ribose (d-ribose) is a type of simple sugar, or carbohydrate, that our bodies make.
It is an essential component of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which supplies energy to our cells.
Why do people take ribose?
People take extra ribose for several reasons, most of them related to exercise and sports performance.
It is primarily marketed to athletes.
Manufacturers claim that ribose:
- Increases endurance and energy
- Reduces muscle fatigue
- Speeds up post-workout recovery
However, several studies failed to show any increase in sports performance after taking ribose supplements. As of today, the evidence strongly suggests that ribose does not help athletes.
Ribose has shown some promise for people with coronary artery disease. In those patients, the heart may not get an adequate supply of blood and oxygen during exercise. This can cause chest pains, or angina.
Some research suggests that ribose supplements may boost the amount of exercise that heart patients are able to do comfortably. The supplements may do this by helping to bring the heart's ATP levels back to normal after a heart attack or angina episode.
Some studies also show that ribose may improve heart function and quality of life for people with coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure.
But these studies are too small to be conclusive and they have many limitations, such as not being randomized or compared to placebo. More research needs to be done.
Ribose has also been used to prevent post-workout cramps, pain, and stiffness in patients with a rare condition called AMPD deficiency. While a small amount of research supports such a use, it's too soon to tell whether ribose is truly helpful.
The same can be said for its use in patients with:
- McArdle's disease
- Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome
Can you get ribose naturally from foods?
Ribose can be found in both plants and animals, including:
- Beef and poultry
- Cheddar cheese and cream cheese
- Anchovies, herring, and sardines
However, you can't get enough from food sources to meet the doses recommended by supplement manufacturers.
What are the risks of taking ribose supplements?
The safety of ribose has not been fully established. Some people who take ribose report side effects such as:
Ribose may cause low blood sugar when combined with diabetes drugs. People who have or are at risk of low blood sugar levels should probably avoid ribose.
Also, ribose should likely be avoided for at least two weeks before surgery.
Before taking ribose -- or any other supplement -- talk to your doctor about potential risks. Even so-called natural supplements should be used with caution. The FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations from drugs. Generally, manufacturers do not need to get FDA approval before selling dietary supplements. The FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement after it reaches the market.