What is Ribose?

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  • Written By: Traci Behringer
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 17 December 2019
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Ribose is one of many essential organic compounds found in the human body, and it has a compound formula of C5H10O5. Specifically, it is a monosaccharide, which is a fancy way of saying it is simple sugar. This kind of sugar won't come from eating certain kinds of food, though; humans make it naturally.

It makes up the backbone of ribonucleic acid (RNA). When phosphorylated, ribose becomes critical to establishing and maintaining metabolism. This is a set of reactions every living organism has. Metabolism contributes to a number of critical living processes, including reproduction, growth, response to outer stimuli, and breaking down organic matter into energy. This connection implies that ribose could be related to producing energy.

The fact that ribose is solely comprised of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen also makes it a carbohydrate, which is yet another factor that suggests it may contribute to energy. As one might expect, this makes it attractive to people with certain professions, such as professional athletes and bodybuilders. While the human body naturally creates it on its own, it's a fairly slow process, so many pharmaceutical companies have developed ribose-containing bodybuilding supplements in powder form.


Beyond exercise, doctors use this monosaccharide to treat patients with diseases that affect energy. This includes chronic fatigue syndrome, coronary artery disease, fibromyaglia and more. Additionally, it can help thwart crippling symptoms associated with the hereditary myoadenylate deaminase deficiency disorder, including stiffness, pain, and cramping after exercising. This treatment may be applied through dietary supplements or intravenously.

Of course, with every dietary supplement comes its share of possible side effects. While supplementary ribose may provide increased endurance, too much of it can lower your blood sugar. This is especially dangerous in those who suffer from diabetes or hypoglycemia, and those who must undergo surgical procedures. In these cases, it is recommended to avoid taking such dietary supplements. A lack of research proving otherwise also means women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should play it safe and avoid supplemental ribose.

There are numerous other situations in which you should be mindful when taking supplements. For example, ribose is known to poorly interact with propranolol, salsalate, chloine magnesium trisalicylate, aspirin, and alcohol, because all of these drugs may already lower blood sugar as a side effect. When blood sugar gets too low, you may experience clammy skin, extreme hunger, nausea, tachycardia, trembling, or a jittery feeling. Stop taking ribose supplements and consult a physician if you experience these symptoms.


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