Ribose is a simple supplement with substantial potential. Cardiologists have found it to be a helpful member of the heart treatment team. It has also grabbed the attention of doctors and patients alike for its improvements to fatigue.

Ribose is a carbohydrate, or sugar, used in the cell to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is extremely important, as it’s the energy unit that fuels our cells and bodies. It is needed to help our muscles squeeze, heart pump, brains think and countless actions that we don’t consciously control.

Ribose provides a raw material to facilitate ATP production. Many doctors believe that at least part of the problem with chronic illnesses, such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, is a lack of energy production to keep the organs, like the muscles and brain, happy. If the muscles have adequate energy available, less stiffness and cramping should arise. This is similar to having enough money in the bank. If the money is gone, and the roof springs a major leak, no funds are available to fix it. In the end, the whole house is affected. Similarly, if the muscles are undernourished and energy production is down, the muscles will tighten, causing pain. Tight muscles can often pinch nerves, causing greater pain and starting a vicious cycle. One of the main goals of ribose supplementation is to improve symptoms by aiding energy production.

A small study involving patients with chronic fatigue and/or fibromyalgia documented significant benefit in energy, sleep, pain intensity, mental clarity and overall well being with ribose [Source: Teitelbaum]. Ribose has shown benefit in those with a history of decreased blood flow to the heart, and improved measures of quality of life in patients with heart disease [Source: Pliml, Omran]. Studies looking at the use of ribose in athletes have shown that higher doses may be needed for athletic performance, or athletes may not show such obvious improvements as those with fibromyalgia [Source: Peveler, Dunne].

Ribose is typically well tolerated. Patients with decreased exercise ability due to a weakened heart could also consider ribose. As a supplement, it is listed as D-ribose and typically comes as a powder to mix in water or juice. The dosage is 5 g taken 3 times a day, for 3-4 weeks. After this time, patients can try going to the same dose twice a day, maintaining the amount that keeps the improvement in symptoms. No major interactions for D-ribose are known, and side effects are limited to minor GI disturbance in some.

Can this carb be found in foods?

While ribose is a naturally occurring substance throughout the body, it is not with significant concentration in any food. Ribose must be supplemented to have a significant effect.

Can it be taken for prevention against chronic fatigue, heart disease, etc.?

Ribose certainly appears to be safe when taken for prevention. The only set back may be financial, as the treatment dose of D-ribose can be 30 to 50 dollars per month. The benefits could be easily worth the cost. For prevention, most patients’ money may be better spent on organic food, a good water filter and key nutrients like fish oils, CoQ10 and magnesium.