Can D-Ribose Help Energy, Heart & Pain?

Healthy life concept

You may have seen ribose or D-ribose in the supplement section of exercise performance enhancers and for good reason. A building block of DNA and the sugar that begins the metabolic process for production of energy in the form of ATP, the major source of energy used by cells, ribose has some interesting research backing it. It is found in food and in supplements and while research is mixed, there may be a future for ribose in enhancing our lives.

Orally, ribose supplements are used for:

  • increased muscle function recovery and to boost muscle tissue energy for athletic performance
  • chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia
  • coronary artery disease (CAD)

Working OutThe best research available on using ribose currently for health outcomes is in CAD. As a supplement, it appears effective for improving the heart’s tolerance to inadequate blood supply in patients with this disease. Keep in mind that because CAD is a serious disease, it should be discussed with a doctor before attempting to use it for this reason. There are also some promising studies about both chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Some early research suggests that taking a ribose supplement of 5 grams three times per day may improve energy, sleep, sense of well-being and reduce pain in patients with these conditions.

Though ribose is most commonly used to boost exercise performance, research on its efficacy is mixed. Taking ribose supplements does not appear in studies to reliably or significantly increase power output during exercise, anaerobic exercise, or improve muscle strength when used in a range of doses from 625mg once per day to up to 4g four times per day. There was one promising 2002 study that indicated a dose of 10g per day for 4 weeks resulted in significant increases in muscular strength and total work performed in young, recreational bodybuilders. Keep in mind that is a very large dose. Most clinical studies have been small and not of high quality design so more studies may uncover a dose and delivery that can consistently support exercise performance with ribose.

Healthy HeartRibose exists in many foods, though not at as high a level as is often found in supplements. Find naturally occurring ribose in mushrooms, meat like beef and poultry, eggs, dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheddar and cream cheese and in seafood like caviar, anchovies, herring and sardines.
Because ribose is a naturally occurring sugar that the body relies on, known toxic side effects are few. Because of the lack of consistency and quality of studies, there is also a lack of reported overdose symptoms associated with ribose supplementation. There have been some reports of adverse reactions in some people, including symptoms of low blood sugar, diarrhea, nausea, and headaches. There are moderate interactions between ribose and a few types of medications including diabetes medications as it may increase the low blood sugar effects of these oral or injectable drugs. Keep in mind that it could also interact with anti-diabetes supplements so be sure to talk to your physician if you have diabetes to ensure that it’s safe for you.

Have you ever tried ribose as a supplement? Let us know about your experience in the comments!

Natural Medicines Database. Ribose.,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=827. Accessed 11/16/17.

Kerksick C, Rasmussen C, Bowden R, Leutholtz B, Harvey T, Earnest C, Greenwood M, Almada A, Kreider R. Effects of ribose supplementation prior to and during intense exercise on anaerobic capacity and metabolic markers. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism. 2005 Dec;15(6):653-64.

Van Gammeren D, Falk D, Antonio J. The effects of four weeks of ribose supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in healthy, young, male recreational bodybuilders: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Current therapeutic research. 2002 Aug 1;63(8):486-95.

About Ginger Hultin, MS RDN CSO

Ginger Hultin, MS, RD, CSO, LDN, is a health writer and owner of Champagne Nutrition specializing in integrative health and whole food-based nutrition. She serves as Immediate Past President for the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chair-Elect of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group and is a Media Representative for the Illinois Academy. Read Ginger's blog, Champagne Nutrition, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Ginger Hultin MS RD CSO LDN | @GingerHultinRD Chair-Elect, Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group  
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