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D-ribose is a naturally-occurring pentose sugar (pent = five). A pentose sugar is one that contains only 5 carbons atoms, unlike the 6 in more common sugars like glucose. Virtually all living things make and use ribose; it is a component of RNA as well as energy factors like NADH and ATP. Ribose is used to increase energy by supporting the production of energy factors like these.
D-ribose's primary role in the production of energy rich ATP makes it an important energy factor for work and exercise, as well as all vital functions. By providing this basic building block of ATP, ribose supplements may help people to produce more ATP and enjoy better energy levels without the side-effects or risks of stimulants. D-ribose is therefore frequently recommended for a wide-range of energy-related disorders, from common tiredness to debilitating fatigue. Studies of D-ribose show significant benefits for those suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Athletes and bodybuilders are beginning to take advantage of ribose to obtain better results from the creatine they use. Whereas ribose helps produce new ATP, creatine helps to regenerate spent ATP, so the two compounds complement each other. Increasingly, user of one are beginning to also use the other, with excellent results.1
1. J Altern Complement Med. 2006 Nov;12(9):857-62.