What is CoQ10?
Coenzyme Q10 is a natural antioxidant synthesized by the body, found in many foods, and available as a supplement. It comes in two forms: ubiquinol, the active antioxidant form, and ubiquinone, the oxidized form, which the body partially converts to ubiquinol. Many multi-ingredient supplements contain both forms. In general, coenzymes support enzymes in their various biochemical functions. CoQ10 is a vital participant in the chain of metabolic chemical reactions that generate energy within cells. It is found in every cell of the body (the name ubiquinone stems from its ubiquity), but is present in higher concentrations in organs with higher energy requirements such as the kidneys, liver, and heart.
Many medical studies demonstrate supplemental CoQ10's beneficial effects, most of which stem from its vital role in oxygen utilization and energy production, particularly in heart muscle cells.
Why is it necessary?
Coenzyme Q10 is beneficial for heart health in many ways. It assists in maintaining the normal oxidative state of LDL cholesterol, helps assure circulatory health, and supports optimal functioning of the heart muscle. CoQ10 may also help support the health of vessel walls. In addition, CoQ10 may play a role in reducing the number and severity of migraine headaches, and improving sperm motility in men. Some research has indicated therapeutic value in high doses to slow the progression of Parkinson's disease, but a 2011 study by the National Institute for Neurological Disease and Stroke found no benefit in slowing symptoms or neural degeneration. A few small clinical trials have indicated CoQ10 supplementation may help prevent and treat inflamed gums, a condition known as gingivitis.
What are the signs of a deficiency?
Studies in both animals and humans have associated significantly decreased levels of CoQ10 with a wide variety of diseases. Since this enzyme is found in high concentration in heart muscle cells, deficiency has been associated with cardiovascular problems including angina, arrhythmia, heart failure and high blood pressure. Problems with blood sugar regulation, gingival (gum) health, and stomach ulcers have also been associated with CoQ10 deficiency. Those who are taking statins to lower cholesterol are at particular risk for deficiency, because not only do statins reduce cholesterol levels, but they also block CoQ10 synthesis in the body. Low CoQ10 levels in patients on statins can contribute to the common side effects of statin therapy such as fatigue and aching joints and muscles.
How much, and what kind, does an adult need?
There is no official Daily Value recommendation, but Dr. Weil suggests at least 90 to 120 mg of supplemental CoQ10 for any adult taking statin medications and for those with a family history of heart problems, or who is at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. This dosage is also appropriate for otherwise healthy men and women as a preventive measure and to help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. CoQ10 is fat-soluble, so take the supplement with a meal containing fat. Seek out the soft-gel ubiquinol form when taking CoQ10 as a standalone supplement, as this has greater antioxidant efficiency than the ubiquinone form.
How much does a child need?
Dr. Weil suggests consulting with your child's pediatrician before starting him or her on CoQ10.
How do you get enough from foods?
Although the body is capable of synthesizing CoQ10, Dr. Weil believes that adding foods high in CoQ10 to the diet and taking a daily supplement is advisable for the at-risk populations indicated above. A typical American diet will include approximately 10 mg of CoQ10 daily, so supplementation is usually necessary to reach the amounts that Dr. Weil regards as optimal. Foods such as fish and meats, and oils from soybean, sesame, and rapeseed (canola) are good dietary sources.
Are there any risks associated with too much?
There is limited research on the toxicity of CoQ10, but preliminary evidence indicates that supplemental doses of up to 1,200 mg a day may be beneficial for those with certain health conditions, especially Parkinson's disease, with no known side-effects. Some studies have found high daily dosages safe up to 3,600 mg, however gastrointestinal discomfort was reported with these high doses.
Are there any other special considerations?
- CoQ10 is being used in research for improving the immune function of people with HIV or AIDS.
- More research is needed, but CoQ10 seems to improve muscular dystrophy patients' exercise capacity, heart function, and overall quality of life.
- There are preliminary indications that CoQ10 may slow the progression of dementia in Alzheimer's patients.
Updated by: Andrew Weil, M.D., and Brian Becker, M.D., on Sept. 27, 2012
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