Antioxidants are substances, often vitamins and minerals, which are important in the fight against the damaging effects of free radicals. Antioxidants work by binding with the free radical molecules, naturally produced in the body through metabolism and energy production. Because the antioxidants bind to the free radicals they do not allow these molecules to do further damage to cells. Free radical damage has been linked to heart disease, coronary artery disease, and peripheral vascular disease to name just a few. (1,2)
Coenzyme Q10 is one of those antioxidants important in the function of the heart muscle. It is produced by the body and necessary for the basic functioning of many cells. Researchers now believe that these levels will decrease with age and will also be particularly low in individuals who have certain chronic diseases such as heart conditions, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and diabetes. (3)
Coenzyme Q10 was originally discovered in 1957. It is known to help the mitochondria produce power and energy in the process of transforming food. It is also found to be beneficial in a surprising number of health problems.
Almost every cell in the human body contains this coenzyme. The majority of it is stored in the mitochondria of the cells where energy is produced. Because the heart and liver contain the most mitochondria per cell they also have the greatest amount of coenzyme Q 10.
One health condition which this coenzyme appears to help significantly is periodontal disease, which has also been linked to a deficiency of Coenzyme Q10. Researchers, using double blind studies, have found that people with periodontal disease who were given supplementation would achieve better results than those who were given a placebo. (4)
Coenzyme Q 10 can become deficient when individuals take specific types of drugs, especially those who use statin drugs in order to lower cholesterol. Other oral medications to reduce blood sugar can also decrease the serum levels of coenzyme Q 10 and reduce the effects of supplementation. These drugs, both the statins and the oral hypoglycemic drugs, inhibit the production of the coenzyme and cause serious complications unless supplementation is introduced back in to the diet.
Coenzyme Q 10 is also used in instances when individuals are suffering from congestive heart failure. In this condition the heart is unable to pump efficiently which slows the amount of blood to and from the lungs and the rest of the body. In order to temporarily maintain pumping power the heart can enlarge, it can beat faster or the ventricular walls can become thicker. Coenzymes to 10 allows the body to more effectively produce power and energy so that the heart can work more efficiently. (5)
Early studies using coenzyme Q 10 with individuals who have Parkinson’s disease have been positive. Phase 2 studies out of the University of California, School of Medicine is working with 80 different Parkinson patients at 10 different centers across the United States to determine the efficacy, efficiency and safety of coenzyme Q 10. The theory is that it may slow down the rate of functional decline in individuals who are suffering from Parkinson’s disease. In previous studies researchers found that individuals who suffered with Parkinson’s disease had reduced levels of coenzyme Q 10. Animal studies have found that this substance can protect the area of the brain that is damaged in Parkinson’s disease. (6)
Several new clinical studies involving small numbers of people have suggested that supplementation with coenzyme Q 10 may lower blood pressure. Research subjects found it took between four and 12 weeks before any beneficial effect was observed. Further research is also being done to evaluate the effectiveness of coenzyme Q 10 in individuals who suffer from diabetes. In a recent study of individuals with diabetes 200 mg two times a day were given to diabetics who subsequently showed no hypoglycemic response. Coenzyme Q 10 has been shown to affect a sudden and dramatic drop in blood sugar which can be dangerous to the diabetic.
Several more studies have been done that suggests the enzyme may help prevent heart damage done to individuals who are undergoing chemotherapy using adriamycin or other athracycline medications. (7) Studies of women who have breast cancer also suggest that in addition to conventional treatments coenzyme Q 10 may shrink tumors and reduce the pain associated with the condition. In these particular studies the experiences of the patients could not be attributed only to coenzyme Q 10 because other additional antioxidants were used, including vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium. The possibility exists that coenzyme Q 10, working in conjunction with these other antioxidants, is what affected the change in women who suffer from breast cancer.
Some new preliminary clinical studies also suggest that the enzyme has some beneficial effects in increasing sperm motility, as a part of the treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, to reduce the damage done from stroke, to boost athletic performance, to enhance the physical activity in individuals who suffer from chronic fatigue syndromes and to improve the exercise tolerance in individuals who have muscular dystrophy.
Coenzyme Q 10 is found primarily in fish and meat. While we are able to produce some of it ourselves, the remainder must be synthesized from the foods that we eat or the supplementation we take. The highest amount is found in sardines and macral and the richest sources of vegetable coenzyme Q 10 are found in spinach, broccoli, peanuts and whole grains. In order to enjoy the benefits from vegetable sources they must be raw, fresh and unprocessed.
Using coenzyme Q 10 has a supplementation from outside of dietary sources comes with some possible drug interactions. Prior to initiating any supplementation purchased at a health food store or over the Internet you should check with your health care provider and pharmacist in order to determine that there are no drug interactions. Some of the drugs which are known to have side effects include several of the chemotherapy medications, blood pressure lowering medications, blood thinning medications and beta-blockers.
(1) Basic Research in Cardiology: Coronary artery disease–free radical damage, antioxidant protection and the role of homocysteine
(2) Cardiovascular Research: The Role of Oxidants and Free Radical in Reperfusion Injury
(3) American Family Physician: Coenzyme Q10
(4) University of Maryland Medical Center: Coenzyme Q10
(5) Linus Pauling Institute: Coenzyme Q10
(6) University of California SanDiego: Preliminary Study Shows High-Dose Coenzyme Q10 Slows Functional Deline in Parkinson’s Disease Patients
(7) University of Maryland Medical Center: Coenzyme Q10