Update 3/21/20. Can ribose help fibromyalgia? Ribose is sugar. We make it and it helps us make energy and form our genetic materials, DNA and RNA. Over the last several years, ribose has been marketed as a treatment for fibromyalgia. I first reviewed ribose in my book on supplements a few years ago. In this ribose review, I'll reveal the clinical evidence for it helping fibromyalgia pain. This review will also address other questions also like how much works, what is the correct dosage and how long does it take to work? Equally important, does ribose have any side effects you should be aware of.
Ribose Fibromyalgia Research
The first report
There are a few ribose fibromyalgia studies. The supplement started getting popular as a natural fibromyalgia remedy back in 2004. It was then that an interesting report of a doctor with fibromyalgia came out. She was a surgeon. After having not having success with physical therapy and pain meds, she started using Ribose.
Why this doctor started taking ribose is unknown because up to this time, ribose was mostly marketed as a heart health supplement.
The brand used was Corvalen Ribose. She took 5 grams twice a day (10 grams total per day). After 2 weeks, she started to notice better sleep and mental alertness. She also noticed a decrease in joint pain and more normal bowel movements. After another 6 weeks, she reported major improvements in her symptoms.
But, here's where things get interesting…
A month later, the doctor decided to stop using the supplement to see what happened. Within 1 week, her fibromyalgia symptoms started to return. She then started Corvalen ribose brand again, taking again (10 grams a day) and within 2 weeks her fibromyalgia symptoms started to get better again.
To further test if the supplement was really helping her, after 30 days, she again stopped taking the supplement. Soon afterward, her fibromyalgia symptoms reappeared once again. Again, she went back on the supplement and her symptoms subsided.
How is she doing today? That's not known. Reports or updates on how this doctor is doing today cannot be located. As far as we know she is still taking the Corvalen supplement.
Ribose Fibromyalgia Research Video
Watch this video I created about the ribose research
Watch on my Youtube Channel if you prefer
Does Ribose Help Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic Fatigue Study 1
In one investigation, researchers recruited 41 people with fibromyalgia and /or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Most of the people in the study were women, which is good because most people with fibromyalgia are female. The peopled took 15 grams of Corvalen ribose per day for 1 month and completed before and after questionnaires to determine their improvements.
By the end of the month, 23 out of the 35 people (65.7%) reported that ribose helped them feel better. The responses on questionnaires ranged from “somewhat better” to “much better”. The researchers report that ribose caused a “significant improvement” in energy, sleep, mental clarity, pain intensity, and well-being. They also said they felt overall better too.
This investigation is interesting however there was no placebo group. This is a shortcoming of the study. Also, two of the researchers in this study were either an employee or consultant of the company (Valen Labs) that makes the Corvalen supplement used (now owned by Douglas Labs).
The lead investigator had no connection to the company and he donated his compensation to charity.
Chronic Fatigue Study 2
In a larger study, 235 people with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia were given 5 grams of Corvalen ribose for 3 weeks. It was reported that the supplement significantly improved energy, mental clarity, sleep quality and overall well-being. One potential issue with this study is that there was no placebo group.
Ribose Fibromyalgia Research Summary
Here's a breakdown of the research so far:
- A report from a doctor (1 person)
- The study involving 41 people
- The study involving 235 people
Given the significance of this, it's odd no other clinical studies can be located.
Ribose Pro and Con
How Does It Work?
No mechanism of action has been given so it's not known how it works. On the website of the company that makes Corvalen supplement they say it “helps your body make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of the cell”.
Ribose does help us make ATP, our main energy molecule. At least one study has noted that elevated ATP may be linked to fibromyalgia pain. Conversely, another study found that those with fibromyalgia had lower ATP levels inside blood platelets. Still, others think magnesium is linked to fibromyalgia.
The bottom line is that nobody knows what causes fibromyalgia or how this supplement seems to help.
How Much Works?
From the investigations so far the sweet spot dosage is between 5-15 grams per day. In studies where 15 grams were used, the ribose was split into 3 different doses, taken three times a day. If you've never taken this supplement before, take less for the first week to see if you have any side effects.
What's The Best Type?
The reports use the Corvalen brand. That's likely because the company that makes it has supported research on their supplement. Since that brand has the proof, that's what I would start with. It's possible however other brands may work as well.
How Long Before It Starts Working?
If it's going to work, you should start to notice improvements in about 1 month.
What Does The “D” Mean?
Another name for this supplement is D-Ribose. The D is a science reference. It means the molecule is dextrorotatory or right-handed. For most people, this is just trivia Whether or not your supplement has the D in the name does not matter. They are the same.
Does It Do Anything Else?
Some speculate it may improve exercise due to its ability to reduce free radical damage. Research, however, seems to show it doesn't work
Preliminary evidence suggests ribose may help the heart pump blood better. Better research needs to be performed. Those with heart disease need to talk to their doctor first to get the best health advice.
Ribose Side Effects
Generally, this supplement is considered safe. Side effects in healthy people are not often reported. When side effects are reported they are usually mild, consisting of GI problems and headaches. No study has reported weight gain.
That said here are some things to consider when using this product. This list is not complete:
- Start with less than recommended for the first week. Just in case you have side effects
- Stop taking the supplement at least 2 weeks before surgery
- Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- If you have heart problems, talk to your doctor first
- Ribose may lower blood sugar. This can cause hypoglycemia.
- Talk to your doctor if you have diabetes or take diabetes medications
Does Ribose Work?
Based on the evidence, ribose may help some people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue symptoms. I have personally met some people who said ribose helped and others who said it didn't. Given only a few studies exist, this topic is wide open for more comprehensive investigations