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Ribose Function

By Stephen Christensen

Ribose is a simple sugar that is composed of five carbon atoms. Like glucose, which is used in your body for energy production, ribose is classified as a monosaccharide. Unlike glucose, ribose is not directly oxidized to provide energy for cellular metabolism. Rather, ribose is incorporated into molecules that are used to transfer energy from place to place within your cells. It also serves as a critical structural component of chromosomes and forms the basis of the transcriptional apparatus which translates genes into proteins.

Chromosome Structure

Your chromosomes serve as “libraries” for all of the information that makes you who you are. This information is stored in a coded fashion along two-stranded arrays of interlocked deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Each chromosome is arranged in a helix that resembles a twisted ladder. While your genetic code is contained within the individual cross-members, or steps, of the ladder, the backbone of each of the two DNA strands is composed of repeating units of ribose.

Genetic Transcription

Before the information in your chromosomes can be utilized, pertinent sections must be extracted from their stored repositories in your chromosomes and translated into a form that can be interpreted by your cells. Like pages excerpted from a book, ribonucleic acid, or RNA, comprises the translated form of genetic data that can be employed by your cells to make structural proteins, enzymes and other important molecules. Just like DNA, RNA is constructed of repeating ribose molecules. Furthermore, the ribosomes, which act like eyeglasses to "read" the message contained in RNA, are themselves composed of RNA and proteins.

Energy Transfer

The Krebs cycle, also known as the citric acid or tricarboxylic acid cycle, is a coordinated series of enzyme-driven chemical reactions that allows your cells to convert carbohydrates, fats and proteins into metabolic energy. The energy that is derived from the Krebs cycle is temporarily stored in a molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD. Two ribose molecules form the structural skeleton of NAD and its energized form, called NADH. Once generated in the Krebs cycle, NADH can donate its energy to another important molecule called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. In ATP, ribose serves as a fixed link between the stable and energized portions of the molecule.

A Body-Building Supplement

Ribose is marketed as a supplement for body builders and endurance athletes. Ostensibly, consuming extra ribose provides the substrate for producing more ATP and NAD, thus improving athletic performance and recovery. According to a study published in a 2006 issue of the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,” there is little scientific support for this notion. However, a 2010 review in “Recent Patents on Cardiovascular Drug Discovery” attests to the beneficial effects of D-ribose, the natural form of ribose, in replenishing deficient cellular energy levels in injured heart muscle. If you think ribose supplementation would be helpful for you, check with your doctor.

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