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Ribose: A Key to Heart Health and Energy
An article based on an interview between John St. Cyr, MD, PhD, and Richard A. Passwater, PhD

Passwater: What are the health benefits of ribose?

St. Cyr: Ribose is a simple, safe, all natural fivecarbon sugar made by every cell in the body. It is the only compound used by the body to regulate the metabolic pathways used to make a class of compounds known as nucleotides. Nucleotides provide the foundation for other important compounds, including ATP, the genetic material in DNA and RNA, and a group of compounds known as cofactors that are used in cellular signaling.

Research shows that ribose administration is effective in treating heart and muscle disease, accelerating tissue recovery following strenuous exercise, preserving blood that has been harvested for transfusion, reducing fatigue and muscle pain, helping diagnose coronary artery disease, and other conditions. Ribose is extraordinarily effective in accelerating tissue energy synthesis.

Passwater: How does ribose do this?

St. Cyr: The study of cellular energy is called bioenergetics, which takes into account all the mechanisms used by the cell to make and use energy. Two important elements must be accounted for when dealing with cellular energy metabolism: the total concentration of energy in the cell and the ability of the cell to turnover, or recycle, its energy supply. Ribose is the compound used by the body to regulate the amount of energy in the cell and the only one able to perform this important function.

When cells become stressed by disease, exercise, or metabolic disturbance, the pool of energy in the cell shrinks. As the pool becomes smaller, cellular function is lost. Muscle cells remain tense and sore, cells are unable to synthesize proteins and other large molecules that need a lot of energy in their formation, and the ion balance of cells is disrupted.

No matter how well the cell recycles energy, through glycolysis (using glucose to produce energy), cellular energy supply cannot keep pace with demand. Maintaining a healthy energy pool is critical to cellular function. Ribose is the fundamental building block of ATP, so without sufficient ribose in the cell, ATP cannot be formed. If ATP cannot be formed, the energy pool cannot be resupplied and fatigue results.

Passwater: You mentioned that ribose was a sugar. To some non-biochemist readers, sugar may sound undesirable as in the case of too much table sugar.

St. Cyr: The body's use of ribose is unique because it is the only sugar used to perform the vital cellular function of regulating the metabolism of nucleotides. Ribose is not used to fuel energy recycling like the "bad" sugars. Instead, it drives the process of energy recovery by actually making energy compounds and keeping them in the cell.

Passwater: What are some of the studies that have gotten cardiologists such as Dr. Stephen Sinatra excited about ribose?

St. Cyr: A Pub-Med search of the scientific literature will show over 15,000 peer-reviewed studies involving ribose. Most have to do with the involvement of ribose in important cell signaling compounds.

Passwater: Does ribose help increase the overall energy in the body?

St. Cyr: Yes. The exceptions are the liver, adrenal cortex, mammary tissue, and adipose tissue. These tissues are able to make all the ribose they need. Unfortunately, they cannot transport it to other tissues. All other tissue must make its own supply of ribose, yet lack the metabolic machinery to make ribose quickly when it is needed to restore cellular energy levels. That's why it takes so long for cells and tissues to recover following metabolic or physical stress.

Many who experience overwhelming fatigue and muscle pain find that ribose makes their whole body feel better. Others, who become sore after a weekend run or cycle ride, find that ribose helps overcome soreness and the fatigue that can last for days following unaccustomed exercise.

Passwater: Do we get enough ribose from our diet or do our bodies produce enough?

St. Cyr: We get very little ribose from our diet. Although found in fairly good levels in red meat, the cooking process destroys the free ribose. Fruits and vegetables have little free ribose and do not contribute much to daily intake.

While every cell in the body has the capacity to make ribose, it is needed most when cells are metabolically stressed. During these times, the body uses glucose for energy recycling rather than for ribose synthesis.

Passwater: How much ribose is recommended as a supplement? How is it taken? What forms of ribose should we look for?

St. Cyr: Ribose is available in many forms: powders, beverages, tablets, and energy bars. Because 95-98% of ribose is absorbed, dosing adjustments will really be minimal.


* 5 to 7 g daily as a preventative in cardiovascular disease, for athletes as maintenance, and healthy people doing strenuous activity.

* 7 to 15 g daily for patients with cardiovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease, those recovering from heart surgery or attack, for treatment of stable angina pectoris, fibromyalgia, neuromuscular disease, and athletes working out in chronic bouts of high-intensity exercise. Passwater: Should healthy people consider taking ribose supplements?

St. Cyr: Virtually 100% of the adult population may benefit from ribose administration.

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