The production of energy in the trillions of cells of the body is the greatest mystery of life. As living organisms, we combine oxygen from our lungs and glucose from our food in the power generator called the "mitochondria" in our cells to produce adenosine triphosphate or ATP. ATP is the gasoline that is used to drive the numerous chemical reactions inside each cell, it provides the energy needed to drive cellular machinery.
Our body requires many nutrients or co-factors to produce energy in the mitochondria. Magnesium, cysteine, iron, niacin, manganese, thiamin, riboflavin and carnitine are all involved in energy production. Another one of these co-factors is co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 is involved in the transport of electrons in the mitochondria. We produce it naturally and it is so common one of its names is ubiquinone, the "ubiquitous quinone". This means that without CoQ10, we would be unable to manufacture energy. Since CoQ10 is involved in energy production, you find the highest levels of it in tissues like the heart muscle, which have massive energy production needs. Even though CoQ10 is a compound naturally found in our body, there are many situations where extra supplemental dosing is indicated. Not only can it make you feel better, CoQ10 has been show to reverse very serious disease and pathology. CoQ10 remains one of the unique and special supplements that many patients rely on for which there is no pharmaceutical drug replacement.
A deficiency of CoQ10 is not uncommon. It may result from nutritional deficiencies, genetic or drug induced defects in synthesis or utilization. Clinically, CoQ10 can be needed in certain conditions resulting from illnesses such as congestive heart failure (CHF). CoQ10 levels naturally decline with advancing age so every one over the age of seventy could benefit from supplementation. After all, who couldn’t use a little more energy as they get older? CoQ10 deficiency is typically found in tissue that are the most metabolically active, like heart muscle and gum tissue. Since CoQ10 is involved in energy production, these tissues will show the earliest signs of deficiency.
The greatest risk group for CoQ10 deficiency are patients taking statin drugs. Since these drugs are the largest selling drug on the planet by volume and dollar, there is a significant numbers of our global population that could benefit from 50 mg/day of CoQ10. Statin drugs (lovastatin and pravastatin) deplete CoQ10 inside the heart muscle, making it less efficient. These drugs inhibit an enzyme which is required for the synthesis of both cholesterol and CoQ10. Statin drugs slowly poison an active site of energy production. Beta blockers propranolol and metaprolol inhibit CoQ10-dependent enzymes. Phenothiazines and tricyclic antidepressants have also been shown to inhibit CoQ10-dependent enzymes.
The most reliable clinical application in terms of results for CoQ10 is in cardiovascular conditions. I have seen many positive results from just taking this simple nutrient. Even though our body can make it, we can easily end up with a “functional” deficiency as a result of aging and poor health.
Cardiovascular Disease: CoQ10 is especially indicated for the enhancement of heart muscle function in any form of cardiovascular disease. It is safe to dose CoQ10 in almost any condition, even if the patient is on heart medications and usually it provides some clinical benefit. The average health consumer can feel confident that their purchase of CoQ10 will give them a good value, especially since it is such an expensive supplement . Since CoQ10 enhances energy production in the heart muscle cells, this will improve contractility of the cardiac muscle, lower blood pressure, and improve heart muscle performance, Specific cardiac problems which may benefit from CoQ10 include:
- Angina (Kamikawa, T, et al.)
- Arrhythmias (Fujioka, T, et al.)
- Cardiomyopathy (Langsjoen, PH, et al.)
- Congestive heart failure (Mortensen, SA, et al.; Morisco, C, et al.)
- Protection during cardiac surgery (Tanaka, J, et al.)
- Mitral valve prolapse (Oda, T, Hamamoto, K.)
Remarkably, CoQ10 lowers blood pressure in ways that are not clearly understood. In one study, CoQ10 was able to lower blood pressure in patients who did not have CoQ10 deficiency. (Digiesi, V, et al.; Langsjoen, P, et al). If you are trying to lower your blood pressure, take it for 4-12 weeks to evaluate the benefits. Remember, you can take CoQ10, while you stay on your blood pressure medications without any worry of side effects.
Another area of cardiovascular benefit for CoQ10 is in protecting against the heart muscle toxicity of the chemotherapy drug adriamycin. (Domae, N, et al.; Karlsson, J, et al; Cortes, EP, et al) In a previous Alive article I wrote about treating a patient with Hodgkins Lymphoma using CoQ10 to protect his heart and immune system from the chemotherapy. If you or a family member have to take adriamycin chemotherapy, you should take CoQ10, regardless of your oncologist or medical doctor’s opinion.
Diabetes mellitus: The electron-transport chain is integrally involved in carbohydrate metabolism. It is well known that high blood sugar damages energy production in the mitochondria and is a central them of biological aging. This is one of the reasons fasting can be so beneficial in slowing down the aging process. CoQ10 helps to lower blood sugar. CoQ7 (almost identical to CoQ10 and considered to be nutritionally equivalent) at a daily dose of 120 mg for 2-18 weeks reduced fasting blood sugar by at least 30% in 31% of patients. (Shigeta, Y, et al. )
Periodontal disease: I have seen good results with treating periuodontal disease using CoQ10. Even the dental hygenists notice a difference when they are scaling teeth on patients who start taking it. Many clinical trials have demonstrated a beneficial effect of CoQ10. Gingival biopsies yield subnormal tissue levels of CoQ10 in patients with periodontal disease. (Nakamura, R, et al.; Hansen, IL, et al.; Littarru, GP, et al.; ) One study also showed that CoQ10 supplementation increases gum healing after periodontal surgery. (Wilkinson, EG, et al.)
Immune Function: CoQ10 enhances the strength of the immune system to battle viruses and bacteria. (Mayer, P, et al; Saiki I. et al; Bliznakov E, et al.) Patients who notice that their immune system getting weaker as they age, more colds and flus, will benefit from a daily supplement of CoQ10. One study showed that immune suppression was reversed with a daily dose of 60 mg/day. (Folkers, K, Shizukkuishi, S, et al.) The patients showed an increase in production of antibodies conferring better immune response. AIDS patients have lower CoQ10 levels in their blood and when supplemented with 200 mg/day, they had beneficial changes in their in their T cell ratios and none of the patients went on to develop infections associated with their condition. (Folkers, K, Langsjoen, P, Nara, Y,. et al.).
Muscular Dystrophy: CoQ10 deficiency is found in muscle, both cardiac and skeletal, of animals and humans with muscular dystrophy (MD). Patients with MD who were supplemented with 100 mg of CoQ10/day had significant benefit in cardiac output as well as increased physical well being.( Folkers, K, et al.)
Dosage Of CoQ10
Most people start with a dosage of 30 mg though some conditions, if life threatening like breast cancer or congestive heart failure, will require doses of up to 400 mg/day. It is very pricy stuff so finding the right dose is critical. CoQ10 is well absorbed by oral supplementation as evidenced by significant increases in serum CoQ10 levels after supplementation. (Gaby, AR.). There also is some evidence that CoQ10 in oil suspension has the highest bioavailability, it is also difficult to get and more expensive. (Kaikkonen J, et al. ) Side effects are minimal, but there are occasional reports of nausea, poor appetite, or skin eruptions.
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