Wednesday, July 20, 2005

On The Subject of Ribose - Good or Bad?

July 13, 2005 the Associated Press article came out written by their Medical Writer, Lindsey Tanner, with the bold headline "Study: What's Good Often Turns Out Bad"

The opening quote:

"New research highlights a frustrating fact about science: What was good for you yesterday frequently will turn out to be not so great tomorrow."

Now at first, I was expecting yet another article with a negative slant towards vitamins and natural health and well being research, etc... since much of today's media seems to enjoy bashing all the positive research in this area --- but what I found was something pleasantly different, and totally in line with what I've been talking about in previous special subscriber-only editions of BLV Health Watch.

The study being referred to in the article was conducted by Dr. John Ioannidis, a researcher at the University of Ioannina in Greece.

In a review of major studies published in three influential medical journals between 1990 and 2003, including 45 highly publicized studies that initially claimed a drug or other treatment worked, nearly one-third of the original results did not hold up, according to the report in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Contradicted and potentially exaggerated findings are not uncommon in the most visible and most influential original clinical research," said study author, Dr. Ioannidis.

According to the Associated Press article, Ioannidis examined research in the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA and Lancet — prominent journals whose weekly studies help feed a growing public appetite for medical news.

Editors at the New England Journal of Medicine added in a statement: "A single study is not the final word, and that is an important message."

Quoted from the AP article:

The refuted studies dealt with a wide range of drugs and treatments. Hormone pills were once thought to protect menopausal women from heart disease but later were shown to do the opposite, and Vitamin E pills have not been shown to prevent heart attacks, contrary to initial results.

Contradictions also included a study that found nitric oxide does not improve survival in patients with respiratory failure, despite earlier claims. And a study suggested an antibody treatment did not improve survival in certain sepsis patients; a smaller previous study found the opposite.

Ioannidis acknowledged an important but not very reassuring caveat: "There's no proof that the subsequent studies ... were necessarily correct." But he noted that in all 14 cases in which results were contradicted or softened, the subsequent studies were either larger or better designed. Also, none of the contradicted treatments is currently recommended by medical guidelines.

Not by accident, this week's JAMA also includes a study contradicting previous thinking that stomach-lying helped improve breathing in children hospitalized with acute lung injuries. The new study found they did no better than patients lying on their backs.

DeAngelis said she included the study with Ioannidis' report to highlight the issue. She said the media can complicate matters with misleading or exaggerated headlines about studies.

Ioannidis said scientists and editors should avoid "giving selective attention only to the most promising or exciting results" and should make the public more aware of the limitations of science.

"The general public should not panic" about refuted studies, he said. "We all need to start thinking more critically."

This leads directly into a request we got from one of our readers to review information on ribose.

Our subscriber had found one study on the subject, titled, "Research: Benefit of Ribose in a Patient With Fibromyalgia"

Here's a quick overview of what the study was about...


Ribose was added to the existing treatment regimen of a woman with fibromyalgia, resulting in a decrease in symptoms. It has been postulated that patients with fibromyalgia may have an alteration in muscle adenine nucleotide metabolism, leading to depleted energy reserves and an imbalance in cellular adenosine-triphosphate:adenosine 5'-diphosphate:adenosine 5'-monophosphate (ATP:ADP:AMP) ratios with an abnormal energy charge. As a key component in adenine nucleotide synthesis, ribose supplementation may be useful in such patients.

Needless to say in our opinion, one study on one woman does not make findings conclusive.

I hunted for additional studies on the subject and I wasn't very impressed by the data I did manage to find. I don't want to be overly negative, but I did find plenty of info on the subject from various websites refuting any benefits --- specifically as they relate to energy and/or athletic performance benefits. One such website (note - the info on this site is a bit old) stated:

"The only research that supports a ribose supplement comes from research on patients with heart conditions who lack the ability to synthesis ribose in the first place. The bottom line on Ribose is that there is still a great deal of research to be done before any claims of athletic performance benefits can be made unequivocally. You'd be wise to save your money and put in some time at the gym rather than relying on this supplement just yet."

What is ribose?

According to one educational site, ribose is a type of 5-carbon sugar, an aldopentose found in riboflavin and ribonucleic acid (RNA) as well as in free ribonucleosides and ribonucleotides. Ribose is a simple carbohydrate that plays a role in high-energy phosphate and nucleic acid synthesis.

Needless to say, there are many sites out there selling ribose. Sometimes all it takes is one positive study (regardless of how thorough the study was) and there's a rush to get it to market.

Here at BLV, we're not convinced on the benefits of ribose supplements at this time.

Hope this answers the questions our reader had on this subject. Sorry --- it probably was not the answer you were hoping to hear.

Visit our July edition of BLV Health Watch online for the full links to sources for this article.