D-Ribose: The “Vitamin D” You’ve Never Heard Of But Need For Energy
When it comes to natural health supplements, vitamin D is getting all the attention these days. But there’s another “D” supplement that may greatly contribute to your health.
Now, normally, consuming simple sugars is frowned upon in nutrition. Simple sugars metabolize very quickly into glucose and elevate blood sugar levels. The one exception to the rule (isn’t there always an exception?) is D-ribose, a simple five-sided sugar molecule.
Why Is D-Ribose Important?
Each of your 37.2 trillion cells requires ATP (adenosine triphosphate) for energy production. Just as amino acids are the building blocks of protein, D-ribose is the building block of ATP. If you struggle with fatigue and rely on caffeine to make it through the day, taking a D-ribose supplement may be a healthier option.
According to cardiologist, Dr. Stephen Sinatra, who has been instrumental in spreading the gospel about D-ribose, people with heart and circulation issues may greatly benefit from taking supplemental D-ribose. (Your body naturally produces this sugar, but people with chronic health conditions are deficient in this energy currency.)
Dr. Sinatra explains here that taking this supplemental simple sugar can, by boosting ATP production, help your heart muscles optimally contract. This in turn improves blood flow and cellular function.
Many research studies (like this one), offer strong evidence that D-ribose improves cardiovascular function. For instance, in this study published in the Lancet, supplemental ribose powder improved left atrial function in congestive heart failure patients. The patients’ resting heart rate phase (diastolic function) dramatically improved, thus boosting physical activity function and quality of life.
If ATP is the body’s energy currency, taking a D-ribose powder supplement is akin to stashing away money in a piggy bank every day; this important sugar molecule replenishes ATP in the heart and elsewhere in the body.
Why Isn’t D-Ribose A Well-Known Supplement?
It’s barely two decades old. Unlike other health supplements such as vitamin D, cod liver oil and vitamin C, which have been around for up to almost a century, D-ribose is fairly new to the health supplement industry.
In fact, Dr. Sinatra, the health guru that he is, admits that he first heard about it in 2004, when listening to a lecture by a fellow board-certified cardiologist, Dr. Jim Roberts, who at the time touted the “new” supplement at an anti-aging conference.
Dr. Sinatra explains that when he heard Dr. Roberts’ lecture, he had already been recommending a trio of supplements for heart patients: magnesium, Co-Q-10 and L-carnitine. However, in certain patients with more severe heart failure “those nutrients weren’t enough,” Dr. Sinatra says, adding that D-ribose was the nutrient that filled the gap for those with congestive heart failure or hypertension.
Turn An Energy-Starved Heart Into A Healthy Heart
Cardiovascular health and endurance depends on sufficient ATP production. Dr. Sinatra argues that the root of the problem when it comes to cardiovascular health isn’t necessarily weak heart muscles but rather, a failing heart is an energy-starved heart.
By supplementing with D-ribose, you can fuel your heart with the ATP it needs to properly contract and receive blood. Dr. Sinatra says that the supplement can alleviate several heart conditions, including: arrhythmia, angina, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, and statin-induced myalgia.
Can D-Ribose Help With Exercise Recovery?
Yes. You don’t need to have heart failure to benefit from the supplement. If you’re somebody who does vigorous exercise (Crossfit, HIIT, spinning, etc.) and feels wiped out for hours after, D-ribose is definitely one of the top recovery supplements.
Dr. Sinatra recommends taking 5 grams of it before exercising. If you experience muscle cramping post-exercise, also take this amount post-exercise. And if you are taking it for heart health, take 5 grams twice daily.
Side Effects Of D-Ribose
A few studies (such as this) on the supplement report mild side effects. These include mild diarrhea, slight nausea, and stomach discomfort. But these symptoms, suggest the researchers, can be minimized by consuming the supplement with a meal.
More importantly, previous research suggested that D-ribose may prevent cells from proliferating. That’s a good thing if we’re talking about, say, cancer cells. But you don’t want the cells that are involved with immune function to stop proliferating. The good news is that a study showed no reduction in the proliferation of lymphocytes (infection-fighting white blood cells such as natural killer cells, T cells, B cells).
Do You Need A D-Ribose Supplement?
Ask yourself how you feel. If you’re naturally buzzing with rock-steady energy all day, then you probably don’t need to take it. To date, there is no evidence that taking it prophylactically to prevent heart disease can hurt. But if you are frequently struggling to make it through the day, and just want to plop down on the couch for hours on end, with no energy for daily activity, then you may want to give D-ribose a try. Your cells may just need it for an infusion of cold, hard energy currency.