THE BASICS: This vitamin-like nutrient helps your body's 70 trillion cells produce energy from the foods you eat. Coenzyme Q10 has a pretty amazing pedigree-it was the basis of the 1978 Nobel Prize in chemistry. It improves the activity of the body's high-energy tissues, including the heart, skeletal muscles, liver, and brain. It fights fatigue and may also be of benefit in preventing some types of cancer and neurological diseases.
ALIAS: Coenzyme Q10 is often referred to as CoQ10 or simply Q. Biochemists call it ubiquinone and ubiquinol.
HOW IT WORKS: CoQ10's primary function is in mitochondria, the energy factories of cells. It's here that foods are broken down to create ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the chemical form of energy in the body. CoQ10 is needed for a crucial step in the process, where it transports energy-carrying electrons. CoQ10 also functions as an antioxidant, and it may improve blood vessel tone and reduce blood pressure.
HEALTH BENEFITS: Supplemental CoQ10 has many health benefits.
- Myalgia and erhabdomyolysis. Myalgia refers to muscle pain and rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle tissue. Myalgia is a common side effect of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, such as Lipitor. Rhabdomyolysis is less common, but much more serious. When statins inhibit production of cholesterol, they also block the body's production of CoQ10, which likely causes both myalgia and rhabdomyolysis. Studies with people have shown that supplemental CoQ10-100 to 300 milligrams daily-can usually reverse these conditions.
- Heart failure. Discovered by American researchers in 1957, CoQ10 was adopted by Japanese doctors in the 1960s as a treatment for cardiomyopathy and heart failure. These types of heart disease have little or nothing to do with cholesterol levels. Rather, they are characterized by a catastrophic loss of energy in the heart, interfering with its ability to pump blood. A small but dedicated group of cardiologists in the United States, Europe, and Asia use CoQ10 to treat these diseases in patients. You should talk with your cardiologist about using CoQ10 for these conditions, as many prescribe it for their patients.
- Neurological diseases. A major study of CoQ10 found that large amounts of CoQ10-300 to 1,200 milligrams daily-could slow the progression of Parkinson's disease in patients. The 16-week study found that the highest dose had the greatest benefits.
- Migraine headaches. Researchers at the University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland, used either CoQ10
(100 milligrams three times daily) or placebos to treat patients with recurrent migraine headaches. Three months later, half the patients taking CoQ10 had fewer and shorter headaches and less headache-related nausea.
- Breast cancer. Danish and American doctors found that large amounts of supplemental CoQ10 (approximately 400 milligrams daily) led to remissions in recurrent breast cancers. CoQ10 does not appear to have any direct antitumor activity, but may help energize the body's immune cells to fight cancer.
Did You Know?
Supplemental CoQ10 should be taken with meals containing healthful fats, such as avocados, nuts, coconut, fish, or flax oil supplements.
BACKGROUND CHECK: Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs (such as Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor, Pravachol, and Vytorin) inhibit the HMG-CoA enzyme involved in making cholesterol, but the same enzyme is also needed to make CoQ10. If you take a statin drug, it's important to also take at least 75 milligrams of CoQ10 daily. CoQ10 will not interfere with the cholesterol-lowering effect of statins and protects against myalgia caused by these drugs.
GLEANINGS: Ubiquinone is the most common type of CoQ10 supplement. The body converts it to ubiquinol, the biologically active (or "reduced") form of this nutrient. Ubiquinol supplements may be advantageous in some people who need large amounts of CoQ10.
HEADS UP: If you are taking digitalis, ACE inhibitors, or other drugs prescribed for heart failure, work with your doctor in adding CoQ10. In time, CoQ10 will naturally strengthen the heart and will likely reduce your medication requirements.
WHAT SHOULD YOU TAKE: If you are in generally good health, consider taking 25 to 50 milligrams of CoQ10 daily. Take 100 to 200 milligrams daily if you are past age 50. Nutritionally oriented physicians may recommend 300 to 400 milligrams daily in the treatment of cardiomyopathy, heart failure, breast cancer, and other serious diseases. The effective dose in Parkinson's disease seems to be 300 to 1,200 milligrams daily. CoQ10 is fat soluble, so take it with food to aid absorption. It's found in muscle meats and organ meats, such as liver, heart, and giblets.
Product Examples (from left)
Twinlab Twinsorb CoQ10 Double Strength is highly bioavailable according to clinical trials, and delivers twice the antioxidant CoQ10 as original Twinsorb.
NOW Foods CoQ10 helps counter the decline in CoQ10 production that happens with age to help maintain a healthy heart and immune system.
Jarrow FormulasQ-Absorb Co-Q10 is readily absorbed by the body and has been shown in human trials to increase CoQ10 levels by up to 400 percent.
Solgar Nutri-Nano CoQ-10 provides CoQ10 molecules in preformed micelles, ensuring efficient delivery to absorption sites in the small intestine.