Medicine For People!

April 2006 Supplement 2: CoQ10


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What is it?

Coenzyme Q-10 (abbreviated Co-Q-10), also known as ubiquinone, is found in all the tissues of the body. It acts as an antioxidant within cell membranes and is required for energy production.

What is the normal role of coenzyme Q-10?

Our body can transform carbohydrates, fats, and protein into energy. Most of this occurs in little structures inside our cells called mitochondria. Coenzyme Q-10 is one of several substances required for this process to occur.

A young healthy person can manufacture all the coenzyme Q-10 they need. Once we become aged, ill, or poorly nourished, we can run short. Most people with weakened hearts, for example, have low levels of coenzyme Q-10 in the heart tissue.

Detecting co-enzyme Q-10 deficiency...

is possible with a blood test available here in the office.

Who shouldn't take coenzyme Q-10?

As usual, those who might become pregnant, are pregnant, or are lactating should not take coenzyme Q-10. Reported side effects include upset stomach, loss of appetite, nausea and diarrhea. (All of these occurred far less than1 percent of the time.)

Medical uses of coenzyme Q-10

As noted above, levels can be low in people with a weakened heart (also known as congestive heart failure). A number of studies have shown that eighty milligrams of coenzyme Q-10 three times a day benefits people with congestive heart failure, especially those with milder degrees of failure. Other nutritional supplements can enhance the effectiveness of coenzyme Q-10. The American Journal Of Cardiology (1985;56:247) showed that people with angina were able to exercise more after taking coenzyme Q-10.

The journal Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndromes (1980;12:537) showed that levels of coenzyme Q-10 were low in people with hyperthyroidism. Some people who have congestive heart failure brought on by this excessive thyroid functioning benefit as well from coenzyme Q-10.

People with emphysema do better with coenzyme Q-10. Presumably this is because coenzyme Q-10 strengthens the muscles of the chest wall

There is a certain sub-category of people with high blood pressure who are deficient in coenzyme Q-10 and thus benefit from supplementation with coenzyme Q-10.

Numerous studies have well shown a benefit of coenzyme Q-10 in the treatment of periodontal disease.

The Lancet (1992;340:671) reported two cases of people with Alzheimer's who improved with the use of coenzyme Q-10, iron, and B-6.

Prevention with coenzyme Q-10

The beta-blockers (Inderal, Tenormin, propranolol and so forth) are common medications for high blood pressure. Coenzyme Q-10 has been shown to lessen the side effects of these drugs and to strengthen the heart in people taking them. Coenzyme Q-10 has also been shown to lessen the side effects of adriamycin, a cancer drug, as well as to lessen the side effects of certain antidepressant and other psychiatric drugs.

Diabetics, especially those being treated with oral drugs, have about a twenty percent chance of suffering from coenzyme Q-10 deficiency. A study in the Journal of Vitaminology (1966;12:293) reported that about a third of forty patients treated with coenzyme Q-10 (120 milligrams a day) had about a twenty-five percent fall in their fasting blood sugar.

Numerous studies have shown that coenzyme Q-10 enhances the immune system.

Statin drugs impair our production of coenzyme Q-10

A study in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (1993 Mar;33(3):226-9) found that statin drugs lowered levels of coenzyme Q-10 by an average of 40 percent. Because the whole purpose of statins are to reduce the risk of heart disease, and I think it would be very important to take coenzyme Q-10 along with it.

Weight loss with coenzyme Q-10

In greatly obese patients, about half were found to be low in levels of coenzyme Q-10. A group of them were given 100 milligrams of coenzyme Q-10 a day. After eight or nine weeks, those with

  • low levels of coenzyme Q-10 lost about thirty pounds
  • normal levels of coenzyme Q-10 lost about thirteen pounds.

If you want to go on a severe weight reduction diet, you should do this only under the advice of a physician. However, if you want to add coenzyme Q-10 to your diet to increase the ability of your cells to metabolize nutrients, I think that would be a reasonable thing to do.

Dose of coenzyme Q-10

In patients with heart failure, 100 mg three times a day is usually required for benefit. Smaller doses are used in other situations. It can take up to eight weeks for benefit to become evident.

Co-enzyme Q-10 is a fatty substance. If you do not absorb fat, your expensive coQ10 supplements will do you no good. See our information on absorption of nutrients for further information.

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Medicine for People! is published by Douwe Rienstra, MD at Port Townsend, Washington.