Can ribose help fibromyalgia? In case you don't know, ribose is a sugar. We make ribose naturally 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 (I was one of the first, if I do say so myself), but because of a question from my friend Teresa Giordano, a personal trainer in Maryland, I thought I’d take a fresh look at ribose and see if anything has changed. I admit, while I do have some questions, I am intrigued with the idea that ribose might help fibromyalgia. That said, what I want to do here is review the research so you make your own decision.
Ribose Fibromyalgia Research
There is research on ribose and fibromyalgia. As far as I can tell the idea that ribose helps fibromyalgia symptoms became popular in 2004 when an interesting case study of a doctor with fibromyalgia was published in the journal Pharmacotherapy. After having only limited 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 of ribose twice a day (10 grams total per day). After 2 weeks, she started to notice better sleep and mental alertness and a decrease in joint pain and more normal bowel movements.
After another 6 weeks of using ribose, she reported major improvements in her symptoms.
Here is where things get interesting. A month later, the doctor decided to stop using ribose to see what would happen. Within 1 week, her fibromyalgia symptoms started to reappear. She then started Corvalen brand of ribose taking again (10 grams a day) and within 2 weeks her fibromyalgia symptoms started to get better again.
Then, after 30 days, she once again stopped taking ribose. Her fibromyalgia symptoms reappeared once again. When she again started taking ribose, her symptoms subsided. As far as we know she is still taking the Corvalen ribose supplement and her symptoms are gone.
This seems to be the most interesting evidence to date for the idea that ribose helps fibromyalgia symptoms.
I was intrigued with this case study because the person was a doctor and she basically performed an experiment on herself to see if ribose was actually helping her fibromyalgia.
That said this is only a case study. Case studies usually only involve 1 person and usually get written up because a doctor notices something unique or out of the ordinary. I would have liked this better if if involved 100 people but even so, this finding is intriguing.
This case study was published in 2004. It would be nice to know if this doctor is still taking the Corvalen ribose supplement and if it’s still keeping her free from fibromyalgia symptoms. Unfortunately she was never identified in the case report (the people in case reports are usually anonymous ).
In 2006 a ribose fibromyalgia treatment study was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine. This study consisted of 41 people with fibromyalgia and /or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Of the 41, 36 people finished the study. Most of the participants were women. The people in the study were given 5 grams of ribose 3 times a day (15 grams of ribose total per day). Each person was given a container that had 280 grams of ribose and a questionnaire to complete so that they could report to the researchers how they felt after taking ribose. The supplement used in this study was Corvalen ribose.
Since people were taking 15 grams of ribose per day, technically the study should have only lasted about 19 days (280 ÷ 15 = about 19 days) but on average it took people about 25 days to finish the ribose.
At the end of the study, 23 out of the 35 people (65.7%) reported that ribose helped them feel better according to the questionnaires they returned to the researchers.
The people’s responses 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 as well as an improvement in patients' global assessment” (how they felt overall).
A problem of this study was that it was technically a pilot study. A pilot study is basically a preliminary investigation that’s used to determine if something is worth researching further. As I write these words, it doesn't appear that the researchers have published any other studies. Why? Another issue with this study is that there was no placebo group.
I also found a little typo in the study. At one point they say the average length of ribose use was 25 days but later they say it was 28 days. It’s a minor error and no study is “perfect” but it does make me wonder if there are any other problems.
Also, of the 3 investigators in this study, one was a Valen Labs consultant and the other was an employee of Valen Labs. Valen Labs is the maker of Corvalen, the ribose supplement used in this study . The chief investigator appears to have no connection to Valen labs and donated his compensation to charity. This is all clearly stated at the end of the study.
As I write these words, the case study the pilot study seem to be the only evidence that ribose helps fibromyalgia.
A study published in 2012 also noted that Corvalen ribose helped people who had chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). This study involved 253 people with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. People were given 5 grams of Corvalen ribose per day for 3 weeks.
The researchers reported that ribose produced significant improvements in energy, mental clarity, sleep quality and overall well being.
This is an interesting study but one problem is that it was an open label study and had no placebo group. An open label study means that the researchers knew who was getting the treatment (in this case, ribose). While these studies have merit they are not as good as a blinded study, where the researchers do not know who is getting the treatment.
The idea is that if you knew who was getting the treatment (ribose) you might subconsciously treat those people differently or let your own feelings influence the outcomes.
Ribose and Fibromyalgia: How Does It Work?
I haven’t seen a good explanation of how ribose helps fibromyalgia. On the website of the company that makes Corvalen ribose 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. There is some research on ATP and fibromyalgia. For example, one review 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.
What Type of Ribose Helps Fibromyalgia?
So far, the published evidence seems strongest for a brand called Corvalen ribose. Corvalen labs LLC is a subsidiary of the parent company Bioenergy Inc. Since they have the proof, this is what I would go with if I had fibromyalgia.
That said, I want to state again that the evidence for ribose helping fibromyalgia appears to be based only on:
1. A case study
2. A study that had no placebo group – which was also sponsored by the makers of Corvalen ribose.
Even so, this gives Corvalen ribose bragging rights over other ribose supplements. Still, I still wonder why Bioenergy Inc has not done any further research on Corvalen and fibromyalgia. Their last – and only – study was in 2006. What’s up with that?
Will Other Ribose Supplements Work?
There are many ribose supplements on the market. Would these other brands be as effective as Corvalen ribose? Its possible but I don’t know because I can’t find any head to head comparisons between Corvalen ribose and these other ribose products.
This is a problem on the part of the scientific community. There is a big need for more ribose fibromyalgia research in general.
If you are searching for a ribose supplement, you may see ribose called Ribose or you may also see it labeled “D Ribose”. These all mean the same thing.
The “D” stands for dextrorotatory which is fancy chemistry talk and means that the ribose is “right handed”.
CorvalenM ribose is another version of the original Corvalen supplement. The difference is that CorvalenM has some magnesium. Currently there is no good proof that CorvalenM is any better for fibromyglgia than the original Corvalen.
Both of the lines of evidence I summarized above used regular Corvalen and not CorvalenM. I'd start with regular Corvalen first before experimenting with CorvalenM. Here is a link to Corvalen on Amazon for those who are interested.
How Much Ribose Helps Fibromyalgia?
If we take the research at face value, it appears 10-15 grams per day seems to be optimal for helping fibromyalgia pain. Personally I think it’s wise to start with less than this for the first few days to see how you feel and then slowly increase until you get to 10-15 grams. At this point, there is no good proof that people need more than 15 grams of ribose per day to help fibromyalgia.
Ribose Side Effects
Because ribose is a sugar, it's pretty safe in healthy people. In theory, ribose may promote a rise in insulin which might cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). It might also interact with diabetes medications.
For those who want more information about fibromyalga here are some resources:Fibromyalgia Fitness The Fibromyalgia Cookbook
Fibromyalgia For Dummies(excuse the name. It's a good book)
Does Ribose Work?
There is some intriguing very preliminary evidence that ribose might help fibromyalgia in some people. The Corvalen brand of ribose is the type that currently has all the evidence but that doesn't mean other types wouldn't work just as well. I have personally met some people who said ribose helped and others who said it didn't. I am intrigued by what I've seen so far and wish somebody would do better studies than currently exists. If ribose helped you – or didn't – I hope you will leave a comment below so others can benefit from what happened to you. Corvalen brand of ribose to see what others are saying.