Coenzyme Q10 - The Wonder Nutrient
by Hans R. Larsen, MSc ChE
What does congestive heart failure, gum disease and obesity have in common? Very often, a deficiency of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). A lack of CoQ10 has also been implicated in arrhythmias, strokes, hypertension, heart attacks, atherosclerosis, muscular dystrophy and AIDS and many of these diseases can be prevented and treated successfully with CoQ10. Since its discovery and isolation 40 years ago hundreds of clinical research studies have been done on CoQ10 and it is now abundantly clear that this nutrient is absolutely vital to health(1-5). Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone/ubiquinol) is a fat-soluble quinone with a structure similar to that of vitamin K. It is a powerful antioxidant both on its own and in combination with vitamin E and is vital in powering the body's energy production (ATP) cycle. CoQ10 is found throughout the body in cell membranes, especially in the mitochondrial membranes and is particularly abundant in the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas and adrenal glands. The total body content of CoQ10 is only about 500-1500 mg and decreases with age(5).
Essential to the heart
Heart attacks and strokes produce a burst of free radicals (ischemia-reperfusion) that can result in extensive tissue damage. Patients with high CoQ10 levels suffer less damage from these events and Japanese researchers have found that CoQ10 supplementation prior to and immediately following open-heart surgery is highly beneficial in preventing reperfusion injury - a common complication in heart surgery(2,4,5,11,12). Supplementation with CoQ10 has also been found beneficial in patients with chronic stable angina, mitral valve prolapse and irregular heart beat (arrhythmias)(2-5,13-15).
Coenzyme Q10 has also proven useful in the treatment of various cardiomyopathies (diseases of the heart muscle that reduces its pumping capacity). Studies have shown that supplementation with as little as 100 mg/day for 12 months results in better pumping capacity (increased ejection fraction), increased muscle strength and improved breathing(2-4,16).
Several studies indicate that CoQ10 may be beneficial in the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure). A study of 109 patients with long-standing, essential hypertension, who were on antihypertensive drugs, concluded that supplementation with an average of 225 mg/day of CoQ10 improved functional status, allowed about half the patients to discontinue most of their blood pressure medications and resulted in an average decrease of systolic blood pressure from 159 to 147 mm Hg and a diastolic pressure decrease from 94 to 85 mm Hg. Smaller, more recent Japanese studies have confirmed these findings(2-5,17-19).
Studies at the University of Ancona in Italy have provided evidence that CoQ10 supplementation reduces blood levels of epinephrine (adrenalin) and other catecholamines; this is believed to be partly responsible for the drop in blood pressure and may also explain why CoQ10 is effective in reducing the incidence of certain types of arrhythmias(2,20).
Boosts energy and brain power
Many overweight people have very low levels of CoQ10 and supplementation may enable them to lose weight due to the effect of CoQ10 in speeding up the metabolism of fats(3,4,29). Some very recent, highly intriguing research carried out at the Institute of Neurosciences in Argentina has shown that brain activity and alertness is enhanced in hypertensive patients within one hour of oral administration of 100 mg of CoQ10(30).
Keeps your gums healthy and fights cancer
Research carried out in Denmark has provided some tantalizing evidence that CoQ10 may also be effective in the fight against certain cancers. A trial involving the treatment of 32 breast cancer patients with mega doses of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and coenzyme Q10 (90 mg/day) in addition to conventional therapy showed a highly beneficial effect of the supplementation. Two of the patients in the trial whose tumours had not regressed had their CoQ10 dosages increased to 390 mg/day and 300 mg/day respectively with the result that their tumours disappeared completely within three months(3,35). CoQ10 supplementation is also very important for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy with heart toxic drugs such as adriamycin and athralines. Recent research has also shown that certain cholesterol-lowering drugs (lovastatin, etc.) block the natural synthesis of CoQ10 so supplementation with 100 mg/day is recommended for patients taking these drugs(2,3,36).
So how much do you need?