D-ribose is a critically important sugar molecule.
It’s part of your DNA — the genetic material that contains information for all the proteins produced in your body — and also makes up part of your cells’ primary energy source, adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Though your body naturally produces ribose, some believe that D-ribose supplements can improve health or exercise performance.
Here are 5 emerging benefits of D-ribose supplements.
D-ribose is a component of the structure of ATP, the main energy source for your cells.
For this reason, research has examined whether ATP supplements can help improve energy stores in muscle cells.
One study had participants complete an intense exercise program consisting of 15 all-out cycling sprints twice per day for one week.
After the program, participants took approximately 17 grams of D-ribose or a placebo three times per day for three days.
Researchers assessed ATP levels in the muscle over these three days and then performed an exercise test consisting of cycling sprints.
The study found that after three days of supplementing, ATP was recovered to normal levels in the D-ribose group, but not in those taking the placebo.
However, during the exercise test, there was no difference in performance between the D-ribose and placebo groups.
As a result, the significance of the improved ATP recovery with D-ribose supplements is not entirely clear (1).
Summary After periods of intense exercise, D-ribose supplements may help recover stores of ATP in muscle cells. However, this may not directly translate into improved exercise performance.
Several studies have examined whether D-ribose supplements improve heart function in people with heart disease.
Another study found that 15 grams daily of the supplement enhanced the function of some of the chambers of the heart and improved quality of life in those with the same disease (5).
Summary Some evidence shows benefits of D-ribose supplements for those with low blood flow to the heart muscle, as seen in conditions like coronary artery disease. This is likely due to the role of D-ribose in producing cellular energy.
Due to the association between some pain disorders and problems with energy metabolism, certain studies focus on whether D-ribose supplements can reduce pain (8).
In one study in 41 people with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, improvements in subjective pain intensity, well-being, energy, mental clarity, and sleep were reported after receiving 15 grams of D-ribose daily for 17–35 days (8).
However, a noteworthy limitation of this study is that it did not include a placebo group and participants knew ahead of time that they were receiving D-ribose.
Consequently, the improvements could have been due to a placebo effect (9).
One other case study reported similar pain-reducing benefits of D-ribose supplements in a woman with fibromyalgia, but research in this area remains limited (10).
While some results are positive, the existing research on D-ribose supplements in pain disorders is insufficient to draw any definite conclusions. Additional high-quality research is needed.
Summary D-ribose could be beneficial for treating certain pain disorders, such as fibromyalgia. However, research in this area is limited.
Due to its important role in ATP, your cells’ source of energy, D-ribose has been examined as a supplement to improve exercise performance.
Other research has demonstrated possible performance-enhancing benefits in healthy individuals but only in those with low fitness levels.
Researchers particularly saw enhanced power output and lower perceived exertion during exercise when participants with lower fitness levels took 10 grams per day of D-ribose compared to a placebo (13).
Overall, the performance-enhancing effects of D-ribose are likely only seen in certain disease states and possibly those with low fitness levels.
For healthy, active individuals, evidence to support this supplement’s ability to improve exercise performance is weak.
Summary Some studies have shown that D-ribose may enhance exercise performance in those with low fitness levels or specific diseases. However, research does not support these benefits in healthy individuals.
However, those with particular genetic conditions that affect muscle function may benefit from D-ribose supplements.
Interestingly, the prevalence of MAD varies substantially by race. It’s the most common genetic muscular disorder in Caucasians but much less common in other groups (18).
Some research has examined whether D-ribose can improve function in people with this condition (20).
However, other case studies have failed to find any benefit of the supplement in people with this condition (23).
Given the limited information and mixed results, people with MAD who are considering D-ribose supplements should consult with their healthcare provider.
Summary Limited research has reported mixed results regarding the ability of D-ribose supplements to improve muscle function and well-being in people with the genetic disorder myoadenylate deaminase deficiency (MAD).
In general, very few side effects have been reported in studies of D-ribose supplements.
It’s been determined that single doses of 10 grams of D-ribose are safe and generally well-tolerated by healthy adults (24).
However, higher doses were used in most of the studies discussed in this article.
Other reputable sources have also reported no known adverse effects (25).
Summary Daily intakes of 10–60 grams per day of D-ribose, often split into separate doses, do not appear to cause notable side effects or safety concerns.
D-ribose is a sugar molecule that makes up part of your DNA and the major molecule used for providing your cells with energy, ATP.
People with certain medical conditions may experience benefits from D-ribose supplements, including improved exercise performance and recovery of muscle cell energy stores after intense exercise.
However, benefits in healthy, active individuals are unsupported by science, and more research is needed.
If you fall into one of the specific groups discussed in this article, you may want to consider D-ribose supplements. If not, this supplement probably won’t offer substantial benefits.