Dubbed as ‘Vitamin Q’, Coenzyme Q10 is touted as a wonder supplement because it has the ability to enhance stamina, reduce weight loss, combat cancer and even starve off the ageing process. This article will focus solely on the heart health benefits associated with supplementing with this nutrient, corroborated by recent research undertaken.
What is Coenzyme Q10?
Our bodies are composed of trillions of cells and they all have one task in common: they must produce energy. Without energy, the cells simply cannot perform their assigned functions, and the energy of the entire body wanes. Cells generate energy via a complex series of biochemical events that break dietary sugars, fats and proteins down into usable molecular components using enzymes and coenzymes.
Energy production takes place in an enclosure in the cell called the mitochondria. Coenzyme Q10 [CoQ10] is naturally present in the mitochondria, facilitating the production of energy and protecting our cells from free radical damage. CoQ10 activates the enzymes that help produce this energy.
CoQ10 is a fat-soluble, vitamin-like substance that is present in small amounts, in virtually all cells. It has two major roles within the human body: it participates in aerobic cellular respiration to generate energy and is a powerful antioxidant. Our most important organs and muscles – the brain and heart, for example – require massive amounts of cellular energy to function at optimal levels. For this reason, high levels of CoQ10 are found in these parts of the body.
Over the past 30 years, CoQ10 has generated a lot of excitement as a possible therapy for heart disease patients, especially those suffering from heart failure or weakened hearts. This supplement appears to help to relax the blood vessel walls. Resistance in blood vessel walls is implicated in high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases. CoQ10 may also reduce blood stickiness, making it easier for the blood to pass through our arteries.
Are there different forms of Coenzyme Q10?
CoQ10 exists in two main forms with important differences. Conventional CoQ10 technically known as Ubiquinone, is the oxidized version of the nutrient. We get some of it from the food we eat, but the majority is made in the body. In order for the Ubiquinone form of CoQ10 to be properly utilized, it first needs to be reduced in the body, to its active form known as Ubiquinol
While most Ubiquinone is naturally reduced to Ubiquinol, the optimal way to supplement with CoQ10 would be to indigest it in its ready-to use Ubiquinol form. Research confirms that higher CoQ10 blood levels can be achieved using smaller milligram doses, if the nutrient is ingested in its reduced form.
Human studies show that Ubiquinol increases blood CoQ10 levels eight times more efficiently than Ubiquinone. For example one clinical study used 1200mg per day of Ubiquinone CoQ10 to achieve blood concentrations of 3.96mcg/ml. In comparison, 150mg per day of Ubiquinol would provide virtually the same high CoQ10 blood levels .
A study conducted by Dr. Peter Langsjoen in 2008 confirmed that Ubiquinol was much more effective at increasing CoQ10 levels in blood that Ubiquinone. Chosen participants had been diagnosed with advanced congestive heart failure. Patients were given Ubiquinone every day. Results showed that CoQ10 in the blood were too low a level to produce a therapeutic effect. These same patients were then prescribed the same dose of Ubiquinol and follow-up testing found that their CoQ10 blood levels had increased 55 percent. Dr Langsjoen also found patients’ heart ventricles were more able to pump blood than before taking Ubiquinol.
Why do we need Coenzyme Q10 supplements?
The body manufactures its own supply of CoQ10 within the cell, that involves complex vitamins and other trace minerals. However, inadequate intake of essential nutrients may reduce the output of this vital molecule. According to many nutritionists, we simply do not consume enough “building block” nutrients to produce sufficient CoQ10 to supply the energy demands of the heart and other tissues with high energy needs.
CoQ10 deficiency may also be due to chronic stress. Unrelenting stress places a huge metabolic burden on the body, raising the demand for cellular energy to compensate for the increased heart rate and blood pressure that accompanies chronic stress. Other factors that may deplete CoQ10 levels are age, alcohol consumption, strenuous exercise, cold conditions and illness.
Numerous clinical studies have documented the positive effects CoQ10 has on heart health. It is however difficult to get enough of it from food. Only fish, nuts and seeds are the best food sources.
Foods rich in CoQ10 [milligrams per 100g]
|Pork||2.4 - 4.1|
|Nuts & Seeds||Peanuts||2.7|
Does research support CoQ10 supplementation?
High blood pressure: Thirty patients who took hypertensive medication were involved in a randomized, double-blind trial. The first group took CoQ10; the second group took B-complex vitamins. After the eight weeks of follow-up, the CoQ10 group showed lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, less insulin resistance and lower levels of triglycerides and lipid peroxidation. In addition, the CoQ10 group increased its levels of High Density Lipoprotein cholesterol, beta-carotene and vitamins A, C and E [reference].
One analysis reviewed 12 clinical studies and concluded that CoQ10 has the potential to lower systolic blood pressure by up to 77mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 10mmHg, without any significant side effects. However, research has shown that it may take from 4 to 12 weeks to see any changes.
Angina: An inadequate supply of oxygen to the heart causes angina. Typically, blockages in the coronary arteries are the reason for a restricted blood supply. A study was conducted in Japan, to explore the potential of CoQ10 in 12 patients who had stable angina. CoQ10 doses of 150 to 300mg daily was compared with a placebo in 37 patients. Supplementation with CoQ10 was associated with increased exercise duration and decreased frequency of attacks.
Congestive heart failure: A six-year study of people with congestive heart failure, conducted at the University of Texas in the US, found that 75 percent of the group on CoQ10 survived for three years. In comparison, only 25 percent of a similar group on conventional medication lived as long [reference].
As well as enhancing antioxidation and protecting nitric oxide, CoQ10 also promotes vasodilation in the arteries of those with coronary heart disease. This is exactly what you need to reverse arterial damage and keep the pressure down. According to research documented, CoQ10 also improves heart function within four weeks in those people with heart failure, when given at a dosage of 100mg per day. And that is without side effects.
Heart surgery: The heart, brain and other tissues may not receive sufficient blood during heart surgery, resulting in increased levels of free radicals and subsequent cell damage. As an antioxidant, CoQ10 helps to protect the cells from harm. Other types of heart surgery are performed, that may also benefit from CoQ10 supplementation. These include: (1) Cardiac catherization, whereby a narrow catheter is placed into the vein or artery in the arm or leg, in order to assess the amount of oxygen in the blood and to also provide information about blood pressure and the functions of the heart muscles, valves and arteries. (2) Angioplasty – a technique for treating a narrowed or blocked section of blood vessel by introducing a catheter with a balloon into the constricted area. The balloon is supposed to compress the blocking material along the entire wall of the blood vessel, allowing blood to move through it. (3) By-pass surgery is recommended when severe blockages are found in the several major blood vessels. Obstructions can be bypassed using sections of healthy artery from the chest or vein from the leg. (4) Heart transplant. Following heart transplant surgery, recipients are required to take immunosuppressant medication to stop the body from rejecting the new organ. However, rejection can still occur in some cases.
A study conducted among thirty-four patients revealed a dangerously high level of oxidative stress and low levels of antioxidants, following a heart transplant. Researchers suggested that CoQ10 could contribute to the transplanted heart not being rejected.
What is the relationship between statins and CoEnzyme Q10?
Several animal and human studies have concluded that low levels of CoQ10 coincide with the use of statin medication to treat elevated blood cholesterol levels. As these drugs lower serum cholesterol, they also block the synthesis of CoQ10 because both CoQ10 and cholesterol are produced in the same biological pathway in the body [reference].
Since these two molecules share the same biochemical synthetic pathway, when cholesterol levels are high, CoQ10 levels are also high. Basically the body’s production of cholesterol requires mevalonate, a derivative of mevalonic acid. Statin medications work by inhibiting the production of mevalonic acid and mevalonate. But mevalonate is also necessary for the formation of the CoQ10 molecule. Therefore, when statin inhibits mevalonate, they indirectly inhibit our body’s synthesis of CoQ10, which is required to produce our energy.
This explains many of the side effects that come with the use of statin medication. The unwanted symptoms arise when muscles have to work with too little energy because of a lack of sufficient amounts of CoQ10. According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre [UMMC], there is no doubt that statins will “reduce the natural levels of CoQ10 in the body”. In fact, it has been shown that statins can lower CoQ10 levels by up to 40%. This could potentially complicate other health issues and leave you vulnerable to side effects from your prescribed statins.
A study was published in the American Journal of Cardiology, in which a randomized controlled trial was carried out to determine whether CoQ10 supplementation would reduce the amount of muscle pain associated with statin treatment. Patients with myopathic symptoms were randomly assigned CoQ10 [100mg per day] or Vitamin E [400IU per day] for 30 days. Muscle pain and pain interference with daily activities were assessed before and after treatment.
Results showed a 40% reduction in pain severity and a 38% reduction in pain interference with daily activities, in the group treated with CoQ10. In contrast, there were no changes in pain severity or pain interference with daily activities observed in the group treated with Vitamin E.
What is the correct dosage for Coenzyme Q10?
CoQ10 is generally safe to use. Even with long term use, no serious adverse effects have been reported. No recommended dietary allowance [RDA] has been established for CoQ10. Most people get 2 to 10mg of this nutrient every day through their diet, unless they are vegetarians.
The general dosage is 50mg twice a day. Higher dosages of 100mg twice a day maybe useful for heart or circulatory disorders. I would advise you to consult with your doctor before you start using CoQ10.
Guidelines for use: Take the supplement in the morning and evening. Ideally with food, as this will enhance absorption. It may require eight weeks or longer of continued use, before you start noticing results.
As I have discussed in this article, CoQ10 is available in two main forms:-
The two forms of CoQ10 are naturally present in the body, however our body needs to convert CoQ10 into ubiquinol before it can be used to create energy. As we get older, the body’s ability to produce CoQ10 and convert it into ubiquinol declines with age. Research also confirms that ubiquinol is more readily absorbed by the body. For this reason I would suggest selecting supplements that contain ubiquinol as the preferred form of CoQ10.
What are the possible side effects?
Most research suggests that the supplement is harmless even in large doses. In rare cases, CoQ10 may affect some people. Potential side effects may include:-
- Upper abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Light sensitivity
As Coenzyme Q10 has not been extensively studied, I would advise that you consult your doctor before use, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
In this article I have provided an in depth analysis of the heart benefits of supplementing with CoQ10. Scientific research supports the value of CoQ10 as a promising alternative to treat heart disease. Since CoQ10 production decreases with age, adults should seriously consider supplementing with this nutrient to improve their health.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and found it to be informative. What has been your experience with using CoQ10? Has it had any impact on your health?