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Consumer Alerts

The Scoop on D-Ribose (Corvalen)

Don't you wish you could fuel up your body the same way you do your car? It would be wonderful to tank up and have all the "zip" you need to get through the week, but your body is so much more complex than a car. Still, the makers of D-ribose, marketed as Corvalen, would like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients to think that if they just consume their natural energy-producing supplement, you can "give your body the energy it needs" ... if only it were that simple!

Bioenergy Life Science, Inc., the manufacturer of Corvalen, boasts that three scoops per day of their supplement will significantly improve the symptoms in 65 percent of fibromyalgia/CFS patients, with an average increase in energy of 45 percent. To support their claims, they cite a study published in the September 2006 issue of Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine by Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers of America. Teitelbaum is quoted on Bioenergy's website as referring to his study findings as, "Outstanding for a single entity product."

Before you spend $50 per jar on Corvalen, it's important to know that even published studies should be scrutinized. Forty-one (41) people who visited Teitelbaum's "vitality101" website and stated that they had either fibromyalgia or CFS were recruited for the study.1 A physician did not perform a physical exam to confirm diagnosis, so it is uncertain what, if any, medical condition these patients had. Next, the subjects were "informed about D-ribose, its potential benefits, and possible adverse side-effects," writes Teitelbaum and his two colleagues who work for Valen Labs. Studies have shown that telling people they will be given something to improve their symptoms will actually alter brain physiology and lead to temporary symptom benefits.2

If participants were given the similar pitch that was presented in the discussion section of the report, which goes on about the wonders of D-ribose, it is possible that patients had good reason to expect improvement in symptoms. This is what is commonly referred to as the placebo response and could have easily been avoided by including a control group, which is a group of patients who take a placebo or sugary substitute (but not D-ribose).

Participants were mailed a jar of D-ribose with measuring scoop, and a questionnaire to fill out before and after consuming the contents of the jar. Everyone was told to take three scoops a day, yet some patients finished the jar after 17 days while others took 35 days to consume the contents. A scoop should be a scoop, but in this study, who knows? And if the people in this trial were not consistent with the daily dose of D-ribose they consumed, what does that say about the consistency with which they filled out the five-question survey?

If you come across ads making phenomenal claims about Corvalen (D-ribose), at least you know the scoop: this product might not measure up to its claims!

1. Teitelbaum JE, et al. J Altern Comp Med 12(5):857-862, 2006.
2. Wager TD, et al. Science 303:1162-1167, 2004.

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