Studies indicate oral consumption of ribose leads to increased power productivity and improves the capacity of skeletal muscles to quickly recover energy levels. ATP levels ( adenosine triphosphate - responsible for energy production in cells ) decrease during exercise and normally take considerable time to recover.

Even after days of rest, research shows that without supplementation, skeletal muscle has a limited ability to maintain peak performance during periods of repetitive high intensity exercise. High levels of cellular energy are required to keep tissues running at peak performance.

Ischemia, a condition where poor blood flow decreases the amount of oxygen reaching various tissues in the body is one result of poor cardiovascular health. When this condition occurs, ATP levels decrease by half or more.

Ribose helps the heart rebuild energy by helping to generate ATP more quickly. Other studies show that following a heart attack, Ribose helped ATP levels and heart function return to normal within 48 hours. Without ribose, heart function was still poor after 4 weeks.

D-ribose has also been used to reduce fatigue in chronic fatigue syndrome. A 2006 study revealed that 66% of 41 participants found the supplement produced improvement in energy, sleep, mental clarity, pain intensity and well-being.

The Department of Surgery, University of Minnesota Heart Hospital studied the effects of ribose infusion in a long-term canine model of global ischemia. Global myocardial ischemia (20 min, 37 degrees C) was produced in dogs on cardiopulmonary bypass.

With reperfusion, either ribose (80 mM) in normal saline or normal saline alone was infused at 1 ml/min into the right atrium and the animals were followed for 24 hours.

Ventricular biopsies were obtained through an indwelling ventricular cannula prior to ischemia, at the end of ischemia, and 4 and 24 hr post-ischemia and analyzed for adenine nucleotides and creatine phosphate levels.

In both groups, myocardial ATP levels fell by at least 50% at the end of ischemia. In the ribose-treated animals, ATP levels rebounded to 85% of control by 24 hr. No significant ATP recovery occurred after 24 hr in the control dogs.

No study has better demonstrated the benefit of ribose in ATP formation. Dr. Stephen Sinatra, cardiologist and well-known health writer, strongly recommends D-ribose supplement in his practice whenever CoQ10 is necessary, particularly with heart failure and cardiomyopathy.

Another interesting feature of this sugar supplement is that it comprises the backbone of RNA, the basis of genetic transcription and through the removal of one hydroxyl group becomes DNA. Because of this, it is a promising element of any attempt to repair DNA damage. Additionally, once phosphorylated, ribose can become a subunit of ATP.

Surprisingly there is no transporter or uptake mechanism for ribose in the intestine. The energy yield comes from two- and three-carbon compounds created when ribose is fermented by intestinal bacteria.

As vital as this substance is to energy production, it is almost embarassing that we have to depend upon this symbiotic arrangement with our gut bacteria to process it for us and becomes something to think about when antibiotics are used for any length of time. Our ICUs with unpalatable fare and IV antibiotics become chambers of stress!

Duane Graveline MD MPH
Former USAF Flight Surgeon
Former NASA Astronaut
Retired Family Doctor

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