Rejuvenate With Ribose

Rejuvenate With Ribose

Julian Whitaker, MD

At age 68, Tom Elliot was losing his battle against congestive heart failure. Just walking 40 feet to get his mail was an ordeal that required a walker and a 15-minute rest before heading back into the house. His ejection fraction, a measure of the heart’s pumping capacity, was a dangerously low 17 percent (normal is 50–60 percent). He was too weak to drive, and he often used a wheelchair. Tom’s condition was so dismal that doctors at UCLA wouldn’t even consider him for a heart transplant.

As a last resort, his cardiologist recommended he try ribose, a non-prescription food supplement. Tom’s energy was restored almost instantaneously. Within three weeks, he was feeling better and his ejection fraction began to improve. Over the next few months, this man—who could once barely make it to the mailbox—was able to start a light exercise program, resume golfing, and even get back on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Today, after nearly a year and a half, Tom confidently strolls into his cardiologist’s office wearing his Superman T-shirt and telling anyone who will listen, “I’ve got a new lease on life.”

So, what exactly is ribose and how did it restore Tom’s energy, vitality, and health?

Ribose 101

Ribose (alpha-D-ribofuranose), a simple, five-carbon sugar, is required in the manufacture of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the fuel that runs the human body. In fact, it is the structural backbone of ATP, driving both its synthesis and recycling. If your cells don’t have enough ribose, they can’t produce enough ATP to meet energy demands. This lack is precisely what happens in conditions such as congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, chronic fatiguefibromyalgia, and even exercise-induced fatigue, for that matter. Your cells simply run out of juice.

Here’s where supplemental ribose comes in. Although ribose synthesis occurs naturally in the cells, energy needs often outpace supplies in hardworking tissues such as the heart and muscles. This is particularly true in people with heart disease or muscle conditions such as fibromyalgia. And while there’s technically no such thing as a ribose deficiency, ribose cannot be stored in cells. Fortunately, when ribose is taken orally, virtually all of it is absorbed and delivered to energy-starved tissues—where, as Tom will attest, it rapidly and dramatically rebuilds energy reserves.

Give Your Heart a Boost

Ribose is particularly effective in restoring energy to the heart muscle. Research has shown that patients with heart failure and coronary artery disease who are given ribose feel better and are able to increase their level of physical activity. In one study, published in Lancet, 20 men between the ages of 45 and 69 with exercise-induced angina and coronary artery disease took either high-dose ribose (60 g daily) or a placebo. After just three days, the men receiving ribose were able to walk longer, and their onset of angina was significantly delayed.

Because ribose plays such an important role in restoring cardiac energy, we give it to all of our patients before and after undergoing enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP, a very effective therapy for reducing angina), and other medical facilities are following suit. Though ribose is seldom used by cardiologists, its benefits are so remarkable that a few, like Tom’s doctor, are coming around. Ribose is now part of the formulary in about 50 hospitals nationwide.

Restore Energy Levels

Supplementing with ribose is also helpful for fibromyalgia. It benefits athletes as well, improving endurance, speeding recovery, and lessening the severity of sore muscles when taken before and after strenuous exercise.

But the fact of the matter is you don’t have to be an elite athlete or suffer with any illness to reap the benefits of ribose. Bill, a colleague of mine, swears that taking ribose after a bout of pneumonia perked him right up and got him back in the swing of things. Others claim that it increases their energy level and just plain makes them feel better. I personally use it every day, and I encourage you to do the same.


  • The suggested dose of ribose is 5 g (one heaping teaspoonful) mixed in water, tea, or juice, or sprinkled on foods two to three times a day. Ribose is safe, well tolerated, and has no known drug interactions. The brand I recommend is CORvalen from Valen Labs. Look for it in health food stores or order by calling (800) 810-6655.


  • Hellsten Y, et al. Effect of ribose supplementation on resynthesis of adenine nucleotides after intense intermittent training in humans. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2004 Jan;286(1):R182–188.
  • Pliml W, et al. Effects of ribose on exercise-induced ischaemia in stable coronary artery disease. Lancet. 1992 Aug 29;340(8818):507–510.

Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 2006. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healingclick here.

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