Sandra Justice, P.D., FACA
Among all the nutritional adjunctive treatments for cardiovascular disease, CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10) represents one of the major medicinal advances in the 20th Century for the treatment of heart disease. A growing body of research shows that this vitamin-like substance has proven benefits for treating a wide variety of cardiovascular disorders, as well as other health problems such as breast cancer, diabetes mellitus, immune deficiency, muscular dystrophy, and periodontal disease.
What is CoQ10?
CoQ10, also known as ubiquinone, is a naturally occurring substance that is consumed in our foods (especially fish, soybean oil, meats, and whole grains) and is synthesized in all cells of the human body. CoQ10 is an antioxidant, a cell membrane stabilizer, and also contributes to the energy system of each of our cells.
Each of the trillions of cells in our bodies needs energy to survive. Certain small enclosures within cells are responsible for making this energy. These small enclosures are called mitochondria. CoQ10 exists naturally in the mitochondria. It promotes energy production and protects our cells from damage.
Although CoQ10 can be synthesized in the body, there are many situations that may occur in which the capacity to produce CoQ10 is insufficient to meet body requirements. For example, in patients receiving total parenteral nutrition, plasma levels of CoQ10 may undergo a 50% reduction in just one week. Significantly decreases plasma levels of CoQ10 have also been noted in a wide variety of problems and diseases involving a high turnover of metabolically active cells, such as advanced periodontal disease, congestive heart failure, and hyperthyroidism. Levels of CoQ10 can decline with advancing age. The use of certain drugs represents another source of CoQ10 depletion. Certain cholesterol- lowering agents (particularly the statins), beta blocking drugs, and psychotropic drugs have been shown to interfere with production of CoQ10.
Therapeutic uses of CoQ10
- Congestive heart failure: CoQ10 as an adjunct to conventional therapy has been demonstrated to improve symptoms such as fluid retention, heart palpitations, and insomnia, in patients with moderate to severe congestive heart failure. CoQ10 alone may be sufficient to improve symptoms in patients with mild congestive heart failure.
- Hypertension: Studies have shown the CoQ10 supplementation lowers high blood pressure after 4 to 12 weeks. CoQ10 is not a typical antihypertensive drug; it apparently corrects a metabolic abnormality that favorably affects blood pressure.
- Angina: May reduce anginal episodes and improve cardiac function.
- Myocardial infarction: May provide protective effects in patients with acute myocardial infarction if administered within three days of onset of symptoms.
- Cardiac bypass surgery: Pretreatment with CoQ10 has been shown to reduce oxidative damage and protect the heart during surgery.
- Breast cancer: Studies have shown that high doses of CoQ10, as part of a nutritional protocol, was found to support at least partial remission, tumor reductions, and retarded metastasis.
- Chemotherapy: CoQ10 reduces the cardiotoxicity of adriamycin.
- Diabetes mellitus: CoQ10 may be beneficial in moderately reducing fasting blood sugar.
- Exercise/weight loss: May be beneficial in improving capacity at submaximal heart rate, maximal work load, and maximal oxygen consumption after four weeks of supplementation. May assist in weight loss by correcting energy consumption and expenditure balance in certain individuals.
- Immune deficiencies: Supplementation with CoQ10 may enhance immune response.
- Neurodegenerative diseases: CoQ10 supplementation may improve energy production in muscle cells, thereby improving physical performance.
- Periodontal disease: CoQ10 deficiency in gingival tissue is present in 60 to 96 percent of patients with periodontal disease. Oral treatment with CoQ10 reverses the gingival tissue deficiency and appears to accelerate healing and improve energy-dependent healing and repair.
General supplementation dose is 25mg twice daily.
Experimental doses include the following:
- 100mg a day in patients with heart disease
- 60mg a day for 4 to 8 weeks to enhance athletic performance
- 120mg a day for 28 days after a heart attack
- 400mg per day for potential prevention and treatment of breast cancer, and possibly other forms of cancer
CoQ10 is fat-soluble. Formulations with rice bran oil promote its absorption.
If you have or are at risk for a cardiovascular condition or cancer you need to discuss the use and dosage of CoQ10 with your physician or pharmacist that is knowledgeable in the area of nutritional supplementation.
Serious side effects have not been reported with CoQ10 therapy. Infrequent side effects have included stomach discomfort, loss of appetite, nausea, and diarrhea. Full studies evaluating the combination of CoQ10 and other medicines have not been done. Any changes made in the dosages of medicines, or the addition of CoQ10, should be done gradually. CoQ10 can interfere with blood clotting. Warfarin patients need to have their INR monitored if they start or stop CoQ10.
The safety of supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding is unknown.
Mitochondrial Agent Par Excellence
As science begins to unravel the mechanisms of life and death at the cellular level, ongoing research throws a spotlight onto the mitochondria. CoQ10, the mitochondrial agent par excellence, emerges as a bioenergetic/antioxidant therapy for a myriad of degenerative diseases.