Research & Education

Exploring D-Ribose

Energy is the buzzword of the day. Almost universally people feel as though they lack sufficient energy leaving them vulnerable to products claiming energy-enhancing properties. This has boosted a market filled with a myriad of stimulants promising the energy everyone covets. With many of the popular commercial products (and their misuse by some) however are we targeting the root problem or are these items masking a deeper crisis? 

Logic seems to suggest that we explore the very foundation of energy-production when energy seems insufficient. That requires a close look at the mitochondria – the cell’s energy manufacturing facility. Most of the mitochondria’s job entails recycling spent ADP to new ATP (energy) by adding a phosphate. However when the availability of ADP is limited it must remanufacture new ATP from three simple ingredients: adenine d-ribose and phosphate. D-ribose is produced by the rate-limiting pathway the pentose phosphate shunt. Unfortunately this process can be slow and tedious leaving the body with a deficit of energy.

There are various circumstances in which the body experiences an energy deficit. Vigorous athletes use generous amounts of ATP but leave little time to recover. Similarly individuals with heart conditions and fatigue-producing conditions often utilize more energy than the body is able to reproduce. Mitochondrial dysfunction is also on the rise and contributing to a lack of energy. In all these situations resupplying the body with d-ribose can have a significant impact on energy levels and improve fatigue because it addresses the foundational cause of the fatigue – a lack of ATP.

D-ribose is essential in energy-demanding tissues such as the heart and skeletal muscle. Energetically consuming health conditions or activities therefore can severely restrict energy and decrease quality of life. Congestive heart failure and cardiac ischemia are two conditions that rob cardiac muscle of vital energy leaving its victims feeling exhausted and unable to function optimally. Providing extra d-ribose in these cases can transform lives. A study published in the International Journal of Cardiology found 5 grams of d-ribose given three times a day for 8 weeks significantly improved VO(2) tidal volume/VO(2) and heart rate/tidal volume in subjects with NYHA class III-IV heart failure. Improved ventilation efficiency was accomplished by replenishing deficient myocardial energy with the appropriate energy substrate d-ribose. Further studies on subjects with congestive heart failure and myocardial ischemia supported the use of d-ribose for rebuilding cellular energy and improving cellular function. Naturally this led to a substantial increase in quality of life for these subjects. 

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia (FM) are other examples of rising health concerns that are leaving their victims paralyzed from a lack of energy. D-ribose again may play an essential role in improving symptoms and quality of life in individuals plagued with these conditions. A pilot study of 41 patients diagnosed with CFS and/or FM noted significant improvements in energy sleep mental clarity pain intensity and well-being after taking 5 grams of d-ribose three times daily for approximately 18 days. Impaired cellular energy metabolism contributing to conditions such as CSF and FM are becoming an increasing concern albeit due to high-stress lifestyles making d-ribose an important contribution to the health of many individuals.

Energy metabolism in skeletal muscle can be as intense as that of cardiac muscle especially in athletes and individuals exercising at long and/or repetitive intense intervals. As energy/ATP becomes depleted demand for energy substrates such as d-ribose increases and energy metabolism can be compromised until sufficient substrates are supplied. Therefore d-ribose may play a role in maintaining performance among athletes and those who maintain rigorous exercise routines.

D-ribose’s significance can be seen in enhancing recovery following ischemia of either myocardial muscle (following cardiovascular conditions) or skeletal muscle (following high-intensity exercise) which may provide another explanation for its success in improving energy. Various studies have demonstrated the ability of d-ribose to modulate the development of free radicals during exercise including the ability to lower malondialdehyde while increasing plasma reduced glutathione. Aiding the rapid recovery of oxidative stress to myocardial or skeletal muscle ischemia can improve objective and subjective energy scores significantly. 

Overall we see that d-ribose clearly targets the foundation of energy production. It supplies the correct substrate needed by the mitochondria to enhance authentic energy production. It fuels all cells but has a special affinity for energy-demanding tissues such as myocardial and skeletal muscle.