Are you taking CoQ10 supplements? If you’re interested in optimal health, you’re over the age of 40, and you eat a meatless diet, you probably should be.
If you’re taking a cholesterol-lowering statin? You should get on a CoQ10 supplement today.
What is CoQ10?
Short for “ubiquinone,” which means, “found everywhere,” co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a vitamin-like substance produced in the body, also called a “micronutrient.” It plays a key role in producing chemical energy in the mitochondria, or “powerhouse,” of the cell. That means it’s important for every cell in the body, and therefore, just about every function.
CoQ10 is also a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant—the only one produced in the body. In this capacity, it protects the body from damage by free radicals, and has been dubbed the “anti-aging” coenzyme. We also get CoQ10 from oily fish, red meat, and organ meats like beef liver, and in smaller amounts in peanuts and whole grains.
A young body typically has all the CoQ10 it needs, but aging and stress can lower levels of the nutrient. According to the Mayo Clinic, Coq10 levels decrease with age, and are also low in patients with chronic diseases such as heart conditions, muscular dystrophies, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. Some prescription drugs can also lower CoQ10 levels, particularly cholesterol-lowering statins, which are widely used today.
People with Disease Have Low Levels of CoQ10
Research has found that the highest levels of CoQ10 in the body are found in the heart, brain, liver, and kidneys. Since these organs work non-stop day and night, it makes sense they would need both regular energy production and antioxidant protection.
Studies have found that people with heart failure and other heart problems have lower levels of CoQ10 in heart muscle cells. Similarly, patients with serious life-shortening diseases like cancer, neurological diseases, and other conditions have low CoQ10 levels, implying that the immune system also requires significant levels of CoQ10 to keep the body healthy.
Scientists have discovered, however, that one of CoQ10’s most important roles may be in protecting the health of the heart.
Protecting Against Heart Disease
Studies on heart disease related to CoQ10 are numerous, and most seem to point to the idea that supplementation with CoQ10 may be helpful in maintaining a healthy heart.
- One clinical study found that people who took daily CoQ10 supplements within three days of a heart attack were less likely to have subsequent heart attacks and chest pain. They were also less likely to die of heart disease.
- People with congestive heart failure have low levels of CoQ10. In fact, the severity of the heart failure correlated directly with the severity of CoQ10 deficiency, in one study. Several clinical studies show that CoQ10 supplements help reduced related symptoms like swelling in the legs and fluid in the lungs, while helping to increase exercise capacity. One year-long, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 641 patients found that adding CoQ10 reduces hospitalization for worsening of heart failure and the incidence of serious complications.
- Several clinical studies suggest that CoQ10 may help lower blood pressure. In one analysis of several studies, researchers concluded that CoQ10 could lower systolic blood pressure by up to 17 mm Hg and diastolic by 10 mm Hg without significant side effects.
- People with high cholesterol levels tend to have low levels of CoQ10. We need more studies, but it has been suggested that the enzyme could help lower cholesterol levels.
- Clinical studies indicate that giving patients CoQ10 prior to heart surgery, including bypass surgery and heart transplantation, can reduce damage caused by free radicals, strengthen heart function, and lower the incidence of irregular heart beat during the recovery phase.
- According to the Mayo Clinic, preliminary human research suggests that CoQ10 may reduce angina (chest pain) and improve exercise tolerance in people with clogged heart arteries.
Statins Deplete CoQ10 Levels
With all this evidence promoting CoQ10 for ailing hearts, it’s ironic that cholesterol-lowering statins, which are supposed to protect people from heart disease, actually deplete the heart of critical CoQ10, potentially raising the risk of heart attack and congestive heart failure!
In 1990, Dr. Peter Langsjoen, M.D., F.A.C.C., and noted cardiologist, published a study on the safety of statin drugs in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The doctor explained that the way statins work to lower cholesterol levels also leads to lowered CoQ10 levels. He noted, “if lovastatin were to reduce levels of coenzyme Q10, this reduction would constitute a new risk of cardiac disease, since it is established that coenzyme Q10 is indispensable for cardiac function.”
In fact, later studies also showed that statins lower CoQ10 levels, and evidence further suggested that low CoQ10 levels may cause dysfunction in the way the heart works, resulting in myopathy or heart inflammation. A Columbia University study in New York, for instance, found that 30 days of statin therapy (80 mg/day) decreased CoQ10 levels by half. Another study by researchers at Kanazawa University in Japan found that 10 mg/day reduced CoQ10 levels by 40 percent.
In addition to protecting the health of the heart, there is evidence that CoQ10 may have some ability to prevent against the development of cancer, most likely because of its powerful antioxidant abilities. The National Cancer Institute found in 1961 that patients with myeloma, lymphoma, and cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, pancreas, colon, kidney, head, and neck had low levels of CoQ10.
- Clinical trials have shown that CoQ10 may have some benefit in treating breast cancer, with a Denmark study finding that patients who took the supplement (90 mg per day) experienced an improved quality of life, and no signs of further metastases, with six of 32 patients showing apparent partial remission.
- Some studies have indicated that CoQ10 helps the immune system and may be useful as a secondary treatment for cancer.
Reducing Blood Sugar
Studies on diabetes have shown mixed results. One 12-week randomized controlled trial, for instance, studied 74 people, giving some 100 mg CoQ10 twice daily, and others no supplements. Researchers found that those taking CoQ10 significantly improved blood pressure and glycemic control. Other studies, however, have found no effect on blood sugar levels.
Supplementation with CoQ10 has been found to help some people reduce the frequency of migraine headaches. Three small studies found significant results in dosages of 150 to 300 mg/day.
Finding the Best Supplements
Other studies have indicated that CoQ10 may be beneficial for people with Parkinson’s disease and gum disease, as well as those with chronic fatigue, cocaine dependence, and Alzheimer’s disease, but more research needs to be done to confirm these results. Early research also indicates that CoQ10 supplements may help slow the signs of aging.
Meanwhile, if you’re over 40—particularly if you’re taking statins!—you should talk to your doctor about supplementing with CoQ10. Standard recommendations are 30-200 mg/daily for adults 19 years and older. (Those with heart disease or other health conditions may benefit from higher doses.) Realize, however, that CoQ10 is tricky as far as absorption is concerned, so you need to find quality supplements. Try these tips:
- Soft gels are better absorbed than capsules
- CoQ10 is fat-soluble, so take it with a meal containing fat.
- Taking CoQ10 at night may help with the body’s ability to use it.
- Effects aren’t immediate—it may take up to 8 weeks before you notice a change.
- Look for “ubiquinol” on the label—it’s reported to absorb better than other forms.
- Consider taking your CoQ10 with your fish oil supplements, as the natural fats in the fish oil help the body absorb the CoQ10.
- Check the CoQ10 report at consumerlab.com to see if your favorite brand passed the mustard!
Do you take CoQ10? What kind do you recommend?
The Mayo Clinic, “Coenzyme Q10,” from mayoclinic.com: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coenzyme-q10/NS_patient-coenzymeq10. Also, “Coenzyme Q10: Evidence,” http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coenzyme-q10/NS_patient-coenzymeq10/DSECTION=evidence.
Langsjoen, PH. Introduction to Coenzyme Q10. ?http://faculty.washington.edu/ely/coenzq10.html.
University of Maryland Medical Center, “Coenzyme Q10,” from umm.edu: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/coenzyme-q10-000295.htm.
Mortensen S.A., Vadhanavikit S., Folkers K. Deficiency of coenzyme Q10 in myocardial failure. Drugs Exptl. Clin. Res. X(7) 497-502. (1984).
Morisco, C.; Trimarco, B.; and Condorelli, M. Effect of coenzyme Q10 therapy in patients with congestive heart failure: a long-term multicenter randomized study. Journal of Molecular Medicine, Volume 71, Supplement 8, August, 1993.
Shields KM. Use of ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q10) in patients taking statins. Pharmacist’s Letter/Prescriber’s Letter. 2004; Detail-Document #200420.
Langsjoen PH, Langsjoen AM. The clinical use of HMG CoA-reductase inhibitors and the associated depletion of coenzyme Q10. A review of animal and human publications. Biofactors. 2003;18(1-4):101-11.
Cathy Wong, “Statin Drugs May Lower CoQ10 Levels,” AltMedicineAbout.com, http://altmedicine.about.com/od/consumerreviewsalerts/a/statins_coq10.htm.
Lockwood K, Moesgaard S, Hanioka T, Folkers K. Apparent partial remission of breast cancer in ‘high risk’ patients supplemented with nutritional antioxidants, essential fatty acids and coenzyme Q10.Mol Aspects Med. 1994;15 Suppl:s231-40.
Sándor, PS; Di Clemente, L; Coppola, G; Saenger, U; Fumal, A; Magis, D; Seidel, L; Agosti, RM et al. (2005). “Efficacy of coenzyme Q10 in migraine prophylaxis: a randomized controlled trial”. Neurology 64 (4): 713–5. doi:10.1212/01.WNL.0000151975.03598.ED. PMID 15728298.