Come back with me to 1981 and Ann Arbor, Michigan. I am sitting in a large auditorium in the medical school basement trying to stay awake. The room is warm and there is no ventilation. The lecturer is reviewing the pathways by which the body, and parts of cells, called mitochondria, make energy. I hear Krebs Cycle and electron chain transport and almost doze. ATP, ADP, phosphorylation and then CoQ10 (short for CoenzymeQ 10). A few weeks, there was an exam, I passed, and I moved on to clinical rotations. All that biochemistry faded into distant memory for about 25 years.
Fast forward 25 years and I am browsing the Internet, reading about ways to treat a patient’s advanced congestive heart failure and there was CoQ10! A cardiologist was writing about boosting ATP production by using targeted vitamins that made mitochondria run more efficiently and CoQ10 was very effective. I read several papers and then began recommending CoQ10 routinely for my patients. The response was overwhelmingly positive with better energy, better breathing, and fewer visits to the hospital.
What Does CoQ10 Do?
COQ10 is made by the human body and may be the most abundant antioxidant in cells producing energy like the heart and brain. In fact, CoQ10 is concentrated right in the mitochondria to counter the free oxygen radicals (rust) produced during energy production.
CoQ10 is also used in the production of energy (ATP) itself and all cells would stop working if we had none. When we reach about age 40 the production of CoQ10 throughout the body begins to fall. In disease states like congestive heart failure, it may fall even further.
How can you boost levels of CoQ10?
Levels can be boosted by eating foods rich in CoQ10, such as whole grains, fish, and organ meats (liver, heart, kidney). CoQ10 is also widely available as a supplement and taking extra CoQ10 boosts blood and tissue levels.
Can you use CoQ10 to manage medical issues?
The Mayo Clinic lists many illnesses where studies have been done with some support for CoQ10. Let’s look at a few.
1. Congestive Heart Failure.
This serious weakening of the heart effects the quality and quantity of life for many people. Since 2006, I have seen many of my patients show improved heart function by adding CoQ10. A major scientific presentation reported on 420 patients with congestive heart failure who got CoQ10 or placebo. After two years, 25% of the patients on placebo had an event but only 14% in those on CoQ10. Even more impressive, 17% of patients died in the placebo group versus 9% in the CoQ10 arm. Not bad for a vitamin you can buy at your grocery store!
2. Heart disease prevention.
Researchers in Sweden reported on over 400 healthy persons over age 70 who were given CoQ10 and another nutrient selenium or matching placebo pills for 4 years. The vitamin group had half the cardiac death rate in five years of follow up and better heart function compared to the placebo. More recently, a study showed at 12 years of follow up that cardiovascular survival was still superior in the group that took CoQ10 and selenium for the first 4 years.
Elevated blood pressure affects tens of millions of persons and may have genetic and lifestyle abnormalities at its root cause. In a recent review of studies using CoQ10 for hypertension, a reduction in systolic blood pressure was documented.
4. Gum disease.
Inflammation of the gums is called periodontal disease and may trigger inflammation that effects the whole body, including blood vessels and the heart. CoQ10 may be deficient in gum disease but boosting levels in the gums by taking supplements or applying CoQ10 topically can be an effective approach and research studies how faster healing.
Migraine ranks among the most frequent neurological disorders globally. Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a nutritional agent that might play a preventative role in migraine. A recent meta-analysis of prior studies aimed to investigate the effects of CoQ10 as a supplemental agent in migraine. They included five studies with 346 patients. CoQ10 was more effective than placebo in reducing migraine days/month and migraine duration.
Bipolar disorder is a chronic and recurrent mood disorder characterized by episodes of mania, hypomania, and major depression. CoQ10), with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, might be effective in modulating these pathophysiological pathways. A study of 69 patients were randomly assigned either to CoQ10 (200 mg/d) or to the placebo group. CoQ10 improved symptoms of depression after 8 weeks of treatment. CoQ10 had minimal adverse effects and was well tolerated.
Cellular energy is crucial in a variety of conditions and CoQ10 maybe serve as a part of a program to boost vitality and perhaps support a long life free of diseases.