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Statutory Holidays: CLOSED

 

Ribose: The Sugar of Life

May 1, 2010

Dr. Henry Cheng

Ribose, primarily existing as D-Ribose, is a naturally occurring five-carbon sugar molecule found in all living cells.   It is a component of RNA, the genetic messenger.  Removal of one hydroxyl group turns it into deoxyribose which is found in DNA.  Phosphorylated, ribose becomes a subunit of ATP and several other compounds that are vital to cell metabolism.   Hence, ribose and its derivatives are vital components of cellular structures and cellular functions.

Ribose does not exist as a free standing compound in food so it must be generated in the body or taken as a supplement.   In the pure form, D-Ribose is a very soluble white powder.  The use of Ribose as a supplement is based on its role in the conversion of fuel to energy, especially in skeletal and cardiac muscles.  In a study by Dr. J E Teitelbaum at the Fatigue Centre in Dallas Texas, and published in Nov 2006 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, it was reported that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue patients who took 5 grams of D-Ribose three times daily reported less muscles soreness and stiffness, better ability to overcome fatigue, and better general well being.  Subsequent studies suggested that Ribose may also improve exercise tolerance in high intensity activities.  This was why it is being used by body builders and athletes.  It was reported that ribose supplements had very few side effects that included minimal lightheadedness and diarrhea.

Through a similar mechanism of action, ribose can improve muscular function of the heart.  Remember the heart is also a muscle, in which metabolism generates energy for its contractile functions.  In animal studies, D-Ribose had been shown to improve cardiac haemodynamics and quality of life in congestive heart failure and ischaemic heart disease.  Left ventricular filling and cardiac chamber sizes had been shown to be improved with daily supplementation with D-Ribose.   Clinically, D-Ribose may improve blood pressure and exercise tolerance in people with cardio-vascular problems.    This was also mentioned in The Oprah Show, and Dr. Oz in the spring series of 2010.

Since it is a sugar, I do not recommend Ribose for diabetics.  Many cardiac patients are constitutionally predisposed to diabetes (metabolic syndrome), so diabetes needs to be excluded before cardiac patients try Ribose as a supplement.  Ribose can only be used as an adjunct agent and does not replace main-stream prescription drugs for heart problems.   Used for fibromyalgia and fatique states, it would be quite safe.

Henry Cheng is a medical graduate of the University of London and is now Natural Products Consultant at Pharmasave Downtown Cloverdale.

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