D-Ribose (or simply ribose) is a simple, 5-carbon monosaccharide, or pentose sugar. It is used by all the cells of the body and is an essential compound in energy metabolism. Ribose also provides the structural backbone of our genetic material, DNA and RNA, certain vitamins and other important cellular compounds.
Everyone needs ribose. It is an essential ingredient in stimulating natural energy production. Research has shown that ribose promotes cardiovascular health, reduces cardiac stress associated with strenuous activity and helps athletes reach new heights. Ribose helps hearts and muscles maintain healthy energy levels, and it accelerates energy recovery when tissues are stressed by strenuous exercise, overwork, or disease. Whether you are a trained athlete, a weekend warrior or are concerned about your cardiovascular health, ribose may help give the energy boost your body needs.
All the necessary compounds for life are made in the body through a series of complicated biochemical metabolic pathways. Ribose is no different. In the body, ribose is made from glucose (a simple 6-carbon sugar) through a metabolic pathway called the Pentose Phosphate Pathway (PPP) or Hexose Monophosphate Shunt (HMS). Unfortunately, in heart and muscle cells important enzymes that regulate the activity of this pathway are lacking. As such, forming ribose in heart and muscle cells is a slow process. This delay in ribose synthesis in heart and muscle tissues also delays energy recovery when energy pools have been depleted by disease or exercise.
The physiologically functional form of ribose, called 5-phosphoribosyl-1-pyrophosphate (PRPP), regulates the metabolic pathway that synthesizes energy compounds in all living tissue. This pathway is called the Purine Nucleotide Pathway (PNP). If PRPP is not available in sufficient quantity, energy synthesis slows and tissue recovery is delayed.
If the cellular energy pool is depleted by disease, overwork, or exercise it must be replaced. PRPP is required to stimulate the metabolic pathway used by the body to replenish these energy pools. Supplemental ribose bypasses the slow and rate limiting Pentose Phosphate Pathway, forms PRPP very quickly, and accelerates the process of energy synthesis.
What will ribose do for someone concerned about cardiovascular health? Numerous medical studies conducted in the U.S. and Europe have shown that energy levels in the heart can be dramatically lowered by exercise, decreased blood flow associated with certain cardiac diseases, or by changes in normal cellular energy metabolism. Depleted cardiac energy stores may be associated with increased cardiac stress, reduced blood flow to the periphery of the body, fatigue, and decreased exercise tolerance. Ribose is the key nutrient for quickly restoring cardiac energy.
For energy enhancement, ½ to 1 teaspoon (about 2 – 5 grams) is generally adequate. Ribose is mildly sweet and completely soluble. It mixes easily with your favorite juice, milk or other cold foods to maximize athletic performance, or to keep energy pools high during strenuous activity, slightly larger doses may be required. Ribose should be taken just before and just after exercise or activity. For extended exercise, an additional 1 – 2 grams per hour of exercise or activity may be helpful.
There are two known side effects of taking ribose in doses of 10 grams or more on an empty stomach. The first is a transient hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) that can be eliminated by taking larger doses of ribose with other carbohydrates (such as in juice). The second side effect that may occur in some individuals is loose stools. This side effect has only been reported when very large doses, greater than 10 grams, are taken. Total daily intake of ribose should be limited to 20 grams, or approximately 4 rounded teaspoonfuls. Ribose should be taken in doses up to 5 grams (approximately 1 rounded teaspoon) at a time. Multiple 5- gram doses separated by 30 – 45 minutes can be taken without side effects.
Scientific research shows that three or four workouts per week may not allow enough rest time between sessions for heart and muscle energy pools to return to normal levels. Taking ribose shortens the time needed by heart and muscle tissue to replace energy that is lost through vigorous exercise. Keeping energy pools full helps to keep hearts and muscles in good physiological condition, increase power and endurance, and reduce fatigue. Recent research has also shown that ribose supplementation during exercise reduces free radical formation and lowers cardiac stress associated with hypoxia.
Ribose can increase the effect of creatine and other energy supplements by keeping the energy pool at full capacity. Creatine works by recycling energy that is already present in the tissue. Another supplement, carnitine, aids in fatty acid metabolism. Others, such as pyruvate and coenzyme Q10, also help to recycle energy. None of these other supplements, however, help to actually make the energy compounds the cell needs to maintain a healthy energy pool. Only ribose performs this important metabolic function. Unless there are adequate levels of energy to work with, no other supplement can be fully effective. Keep this in mind: Ribose helps the body actually make energy, while other supplements may help the body use energy more efficiently.
Traditionally, ribose has been very expensive to produce making it difficult to offer as a nutritional supplement. New technology has brought production costs down. Ribose is safe and proven effective by many clinical and laboratory studies. Over 70 scientific publications describe the beneficial effects of ribose in hearts and muscles.