CoQ10: The Basics
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is found in every cell in the body and is necessary for the basic functioning of cells. CoQ10 exists inside small organelles of the cell called mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell, where it is needed to generate energy. A helpful way to recall the function of CoQ10 in the cell is to think about how a spark plug works in an engine. Knowing the role CoQ10 plays in energy production, it is no wonder that the highest concentrations of CoQ10 are where we need the most energy – the heart, immune system, liver and kidneys.
CoQ10 also functions as a powerful antioxidant, which means that it protects cell membranes by defending against damaging compounds called free radicals. Studies have found CoQ10 to be a beneficial nutrient for maintaining strong heart health and function because of its antioxidant function and role in energy production.
In the diet, CoQ10 exists in moderate amounts in meat, poultry and fish and in even smaller amounts in nuts, fruits and vegetables. The body’s primary source of CoQ10 is the supply it produces naturally. That’s right – the human body can naturally make CoQ10.
Unfortunately, certain cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) are known to inhibit the body’s natural production of CoQ10, which is why supplementation is often recommended for statin users to help replenish CoQ10 levels. Thus, in the long run, statin drugs could predispose patients to heart disease by lowering their CoQ10 status, the very condition that these drugs are intended to prevent.
Additionally, CoQ10 levels are reported to decrease with age and certain health conditions. In these circumstances, supplemental CoQ10 may be advised.
Interesting effects on cholesterol lowering drugs
CoQ10 levels tend to be lower in people with a high cholesterol count, compared with healthy individuals of the same age.
What’s more, certain cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins such as cerivastatin, atorvastatin, pravastatin simvastatin and lovastatin) seem to reduce the natural levels of CoQ10 in the body.
Taking CoQ10 supplements can correct the deficiency caused by statins, without changing the medication's positive effects on cholesterol levels.
As a result of its beneficial effects on one of the body’s most important organs, Folkers calls CoQ10 "a natural and essential co-factor in the heart."
What's the importance of COQ10 for heart disease?
The American Chemical Society's most prestigious honour, the Priestley Medal, was awarded to Karl Folkers, Ph.D., for his landmark Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) research. That’s because Folkers found that in addition to the benefits listed above, CoQ10’s most valuable role may lie in fighting heart disease.
In fact, he says he found the blood levels of CoQ10 to be significantly lower in heart-disease patients than in those who were disease free, and he discovered that 70 percent of his heart patients with congestive heart failure benefited from taking CoQ10.
Eminent heart surgeon Denton Cooley, M.D., agrees. He says that in heart biopsies, he found 75 percent of his cardiac patients had varying, but significant, deficiencies of CoQ10. Reports by over a hundred Japanese cardiac specialists who gave CoQ10 to thousands of patients with heart problems for nearly ten years also seemed to support these findings.
CoQ10 and diabetes
Of course, managing cholesterol levels, helping the circulatory system, blood sugar levels and heart health is particularly important for diabetics, and CoQ10 supplements may be a help to them.
Despite concern that CoQ10 may cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, two recent studies of people with diabetes given CoQ10 twice a day showed they experienced no hypoglycemic response. If you’re diabetic, talk to your doctor about how you can safely take CoQ10.
CoQ10 for Alzheimers and cancer
Now, scientists are hoping its effects on the heart, blood systems, and tissue toxicity means CoQ10 can soon be used as part of a treatment program for Alzheimer's disease, and for recovery from stroke. They’re also hopeful about the possibility of using it as part of a treatment regimen for women with breast cancer (together with conventional treatment and a nutrional program involving high levels of other antioxidants and fatty acids).
Additional benefits of CoQ10
Not only that, but several studies with small numbers of people suggest that CoQ10 may lower blood pressure after a few weeks, and it might help to prevent some of the heart damage caused by chemotherapy.
Introducing CoQ10 before heart surgery may reduce the damage caused by free radicals and oxidative damage, as well as lowering the incidence of irregular heart beat, and strengthening heart function during recovery.