Ribose: what is it, and what can it do for you?
Ribose is a simple sugar, also known as D-ribose, which (among
other things) stimulates the body's production of adenosine
triphosphate (ATP), a compound which occurs in all living cells
and releases energy when it is broken down. In his book,
D-Ribose: What You Need to Know, Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D.,
explains, "We need ATP to make our heart beat, to give our
muscles power when we demand it, and to maintain our everyday
Is supplementation the only way to get ribose? While the body
can manufacture ribose ~ by converting it from glucose, another
simple sugar ~ Burke says this process is very slow, taking as
long as several days. Supplemental ribose, on the other hand,
"... goes directly to phosphoribosylpyrophosphate (PPRP) so that
energy can be produced or conserved quickly."
While ribose has only recently become available as a supplement,
it has been studied for many years. As to why it has not been
available as a supplement sooner, Burke says, "... the cost of
manufacturing this important nutrient was too high to make it
commercially available." Now, however, there is a cost-effective
method to produce ribose.
Ribose and the Heart: The most impressive research on ribose is
that which relates to heart health. One study, conducted on men
with coronary artery disease, was published in The Lancet.
First, the men took a preliminary treadmill test for two
consecutive days. Then, for three days, half of the men took
ribose and half took a placebo (sugar pill), with neither group
knowing whom was taking what. On the last day, the treadmill
test was conducted again. The researchers found that (1) the men
who supplemented with ribose were able to exercise longer than
those in the placebo group could before their electrocardiogram
readings changed, and (2) ribose supplementation improved the
heart's tolerance to ischemia (inadequate blood flow to the
Another paper, published in the journal Cardiovascular Drugs and
Therapy, looked at the effect that ribose and other sugars had
on PPRP levels (a substance essential for energy recovery, and,
thus, ATP production) in the rat heart. The authors say that all
the sugars they looked at, but especially ribose, "were [...]
capable of elevating the [heart's] PPRP pool and stimulating the
rate of [ATP
In an interview Burke commented: "The only side effect of ribose
that I've seen in the literature [are] gastrointestinal
problems, and that was only when they gave people high doses,
like 60 grams daily vs. the recommended 3 to 6 grams daily. It's
probably one of the most [safe] supplements available."
Additionally, he thinks ribose will probably show to be most
helpful to people participating in "high-intensity" activities,
such as sprinting, and will also prove to be useful in
activities requiring intermittent high-intensity activity, such
as soccer and basketball.
(*) Note. Anyone with a heart problem, or any other serious
problem, should advise their healthcare practitioner of any
supplements they are taking, including ribose.
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