9 Health Benefits of Coenzyme Q10
By Eric Madrid MD
In this article:
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is also sometimes referred to as ubiquinone, is a naturally occurring antioxidant nutrient required for life. A 2016 study in Southern Medical Journal showed that a deficiency in CoQ10 has been associated with medical conditions such as “encephalomyopathy (brain dysfunction), severe infantile multisystemic disease, cerebellar ataxia (abnormal ability to walk normally), nephrotic syndrome (kidney disease), and isolated myopathy (muscle pain)”.
Low levels of CoQ10 have also been found in those with heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
- Migraine Headaches
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Blood Pressure
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Metabolic disease
- Facial Wrinkles
Coenzyme Q10 is required for cells to generate energy. This is done primarily, in a part of the cell, doctors call mitochondria. The mitochondria are like a power plant which generates energy. If the power plant is not generating sufficient energy, one becomes fatigued and needs to preserve energy. Frequently, muscle aches can be a sign of low CoQ10 reserves.
Since the heart is the most active of all organs, it produces and requires the most CoQ10 in order to meet its metabolic demands. Further, those with cardiac disease, higher levels of CoQ10 are required.
When a supplement is taken, the body will convert 90% of CoQ10 into Ubiquinol, the active form. CoQ10 or Ubiquinol is used quite a bit amongst integrative and holistic medical practitioners for many of the health conditions listed above. However conventional medicine is now beginning to see the health benefits of supplementation.
CoQ10 was discovered by Frederick Crane in 1957. In 1958, American biochemist Karl Folkers who worked with Merck pharmaceuticals discovered the structure of coenzyme Q10. He realized every cell in the body requires it in order to function appropriately. Specifically, is it utilized by the mitochondrial organelles, which are found in every cell in the body except the red blood cells. CoQ10 is one nutrient, amongst others, required to help ensure mitochondrial health is optimal.
However, most with specific conditions requiring additional CoQ10 should supplement their diet. Attempting to optimize CoQ10 levels through diet alone frequently is insufficient.
As we get older, the level of CoQ10 decreases in our blood and in our cells decrease. This is due primarily to reduced production and reduced absorption by our intestinal tract.
Prescription medications can also reduce C0Q10 levels. The primary culprit is a class of medications called statins. Statins are the name given to a group of cholesterol-lowering drugs which include atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor), lovastatin (Mevacor) among others.
Statin medications inhibit an enzyme called HMG- CoA Reductase. Inhibition of this enzyme is crucial in reducing the amount of cholesterol the body makes. However, it also reduces the body’s ability to produce CoQ10. Muscle pains are a common side effect of cholesterol medication. While many have successfully treated their muscle aches with CoQ10, large studies have failed to confirm this.
Studies have also shown that certain high blood pressure drugs, specifically -- the beta-blocker class, can also reduce CoQ10. These medications include atenolol, carvedilol, metoprolol and propranolol, to name a few. It is believed that the reduced Co-Q10 may be a reason these medications can cause fatigue in some who take them.
The stresses of everyday life affect not only our body but also reduce our energy levels. CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant which helps protect our body from the daily effects of oxidative stress. Those with more stress are at risk for deficiency.
Migraine headaches affect 18% of women and up to 6% of men. Worldwide, up to 1 billion people are affected. Migraine headaches are a leading reason patients go to an Emergency Room, where they will frequently have a head CT to ensure nothing more serious is causing the headache. Further, migraines are a top 10 reason patients visit a primary care doctor.
Symptoms of a migraine headache include:
- Severe pain
- Light sensitivity
- Sound sensitivity
- Significant disability
Migraines result in excessive missed days from work. It has been estimated that the cost associated with missing work is close to 30 billion dollars annually in the United States.
Preventing migraines from start is crucial.
Studies show CoQ10 may do just that.
A 2017 study concluded “… that CoQ10 might reduce the frequency of headaches, and may also make them shorter in duration, and less severe, with a favorable safety profile (than prescription drugs).” Another 2017 study and a 2011 study also showed benefit of CoQ10 supplementation in preventing migraines.
A minimum of 100 mg daily or up to 100 mg three times per day is advised to help prevent migraines.
Energy is produced in the mitochondria and requires CoQ10 to generate energy. Providing the body with extra CoQ10 may help improve energy production overall by the body. A study showed an increase in energy in those with Multiple Sclerosis. More studies are needed.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects women more than men. The symptoms include chronic fatigue and whole-body pain. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a popular theory which likely explains the cause of fibromyalgia. A study from Spain found women, with fibromyalgia, who took CoQ10 at a daily dose of 300 mg noticed an improvement in their symptoms. Supplementing with CoQ10 at 100 mg to 300 mg daily is commonly taken.
Cognitive decline or dementia is becoming more prevalent as the population ages. Dementia causes significant hardship on both the affected person and families. Studies have shown reduced levels of CoQ10 in the blood increase one’s risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
A 2015 study showed CoQ10 at doses of 100 mg three times per day could help slow cognitive decline in those with Parkinson’s disease. Other studies show CoQ10 plays an important role in helping those with Alzheimer’s disease. Supplementing with CoQ10 at 100 mg to 300 mg daily is recommended.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is diagnosed when blood pressure is persistently greater than 140/90. High blood pressure increases one’s risk of developing heart disease, congestive heart failure, kidney disease and stroke. A healthy diet and routine exercise help lower blood pressure Sometimes medications are needed. Supplements like Co-Enzyme Q10 can also be helpful. Mayo Clinic also backs use of CoQ10 for high blood pressure as did a 2015 study in the Annals of Medicine. Supplementing with CoQ10 at 100 mg to 300 mg daily is recommended.
Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently throughout the body. It is well known that as heart failure worsens, levels of CoQ10 become reduced. Studies show that those admitted to the hospital for heart failure and who had lower blood levels of CoQ10 had a higher risk of dying compared with higher blood levels.
A 2013 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which evaluated 13 separate studies, concluded: “CoQ10 may improve the Ejection Fraction (EF) in those with Congestive Heart Failure”. The Ejection Fraction is a test doctors use to measure how efficient one’s heart will pump.
In 2014, the Q-Symbio study (done in Italy), where patients took 300 mg per day for 2 years showed significant benefit in those with congestive heart failure. The usual medications for congestive heart failure were also taken during the study.
In response to the Q-Symbio study, Dr. Steen Stender stated “The study gives rise to seriously considering adding to the guidelines for the treatment of heart failure patients. I predict that Q10 supplements eventually will become common treatment worldwide for these patients.
The study also demonstrated that CoQ10 reduced the death in half in those with congestive heart failure. The leading author Professor Mortensen concluded:
"CoQ10 is the first medication to improve survival in chronic heart failure …in more than a decade ago and should be added to standard heart failure therapy.
A 2017 study, which reviewed 14 other studies showed a benefit of CoQ10. The results showed those who took CoQ10 were 31% less likely to die from complications of congestive heart failure. Supplementing with CoQ10 gummies with at least 100 mg one to three times per day is common.
- Reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol, a risk factor for heart attack and stroke
- Reduction of Triglycerides a risk factor for heart attack and stroke
- Reduction of LpA, an independent risk factor of heart attack and stroke.
- May prevent Left Ventricular Hypertrophy (enlargement of the heart)
- May reduce hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Reduces the risk of being hospitalized from congestive heart failure
- Improves overall functional status and strength
- May prevents progression of Macular Degeneration of the eyes
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) sufferers may also benefit
- Facial wrinkles may be reduced with topical CoQ10 application.
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