Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a fat soluble compound best known for its vital function in the production of energy inside cells. It is concentrated in the part of the cell that churns out energy, the mitochondria. A lesser known function of CoQ10 may be its powerful antioxidant activity in cell membranes and in lipoproteins like LDL cholesterol.
Tissue with a big CoQ10 footprint
Cardiologist, congestive heart failure (CHF) researcher and international CoQ10 expert, Peter H. Langsjoen, MD, FACC says that”. The heart muscle uses more energy than any other organ in our bodies”.
Skeletal muscle, the brain, the liver and gum tissue are also big energy consumers. These organs and tissues require optimal amounts of CoQ10 for optimal energy production for optimal health.
Cells use enzymes to break down chemical bonds in molecules to produce energy. Importantly, enzymes just can’t perform without their supporting cast of coenzymes. Many vitamins and CoQ10 are coenzymes and without them energy production is impaired. According to Dr. Langsjoen, “CoQ10 is a coenzyme for three large enzyme systems that are essential for 90% of cellular energy production”.
CoQ10 as a powerful antioxidant
Residing in cell mitochondria, membranes and in lipoproteins, CoQ10 functions to neutralize free radicals and reactive oxygen species – those damaging molecules that are formed simply by breathing and eating.
CoQ10 acts to regenerate or recycle alpha tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) for antioxidant activity. It also protects the lipoprotein LDL cholesterol from lipid peroxidation, a particularly cell damaging reactive oxygen species.
Where do we get CoQ10?
All plant and animal cells contain CoQ10. It is ubiquitous. That means it is found everywhere. And it is why various forms of CoQ10 are called ubiquinone and ubiquinol.
Like cholesterol, your body makes its own CoQ10 which is a biochemical illustration of just how important this compound is to health. It is also found in food. Meat, fish and poultry are good dietary sources of CoQ10. It is especially concentrated in organ meat. A 3 ounce serving of beef contains about 2.6mg of CoQ10, an amount dwarfed by therapeutic doses used to treat disorders associated with CoQ10 deficiency.
What causes CoQ10 deficiency?
Age is a major factor in the development of CoQ10 deficiency. And elderly people that take statin drugs are at an even higher risk of the devastating effects of CoQ10 deficiency.
In his editorial in the current edition of Life Extension magazine, Conventional CoQ10 Fails Severe Heart Disease Patients , LEF Director William Faloon presents a chart that illustrates how age affects body organ and tissue concentration of CoQ10.
Information from published studies – Biofactors (1999) and Lipids (1989)
* Heart muscle wall 72% decrease in CoQ10
* Pancreas 69% decrease
* Skin (epidermis) 75% decrease
* Adrenal Gland 47% decrease
* Kidneys 35% decrease
* Liver 10% decrease
Statins and CoQ10 depletion
Dr. Langsjoen says that “All statin drugs (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) block the biosynthesis of both cholesterol and CoQ10, which explains their common side effects of fatigue, muscle pain, and a worsening of heart failure” and adds that “the current epidemic of congestive heart failure in the US can be termed statin cardiomyopathy”.
The Life Extension Foundation estimates that about 5 million have CHF, about 1 million are hospitalized with CHF annually and that “nearly 53,000 die directly from CHF each year”.
Langsjoen says that “Unfortunately to this day the vast majority of physicians and patients are completely unaware of statin induced CoQ10 depletion”.
Decreased plasma levels of CoQ10 have also been observed with hypertension, diabetes, some cancers, gingivitis (periodontal disease), cataract formation, muscular dystrophy, HIV aids and kidney disorders.
Should you supplement with CoQ10?
After 24 years of treating patients with CHF, Dr. Langsjoen thinks that it makes sense for middle aged people to supplement CoQ10 as a preventative measure.
What form and what dose you consider depends on your individual therapeutic requirements. The most common form of supplemental CoQ10 is available in the form called ubiquinone.
Your health issues and your age affect the form and dosage of CoQ10 that is best for you.
If you take pharmaceuticals like blood pressure medications, warfarin, the glaucoma medication timolol, or you are being treated with chemotherapy, it is very important to tell your doctor if you are taking CoQ10.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, using CoQ10 can enhance the effectiveness of some of these drugs resulting in the need for lower drug doses. And like most drugs and supplements, therapeutic doses of CoQ10 have not been studied in pregnant and lactating women.
Dr. Langsjoen notes that while treating thousands of patients with congestive heart failure, supplementing with CoQ10 has not led to side effects or drug interactions but he has observed a “gradual lessening of the requirement for many cardiac medications that occurs with the improvement in heart muscle function”.
If you are one of the tens of millions of Americans taking statins it is vitally important that you and your physician assess signs of CoQ10 deficiency including fatigue, muscle pain and periodontal disease and request a CoQ10 blood test if necessary.
By using supplemental CoQ10 preventively and therapeutically, a growing body of research shows that you can avoid the long term adverse effects of decreased cellular energy production and impaired antioxidant function.
That’s good news for your heart, your muscles, your brain, your liver, your pancreas, your kidneys, your gums and teeth, your skin, your eyes, your immune system, your overall health.
Alleviating Congestive Heart Failure with Coenzyme Q10, Peter H. Langsjoen, MD, FACC, Life Extension, Feb, 2008
Conventional CoQ10 Fails Severe Heart Disease Patients, Life Extension Foundation Direction William Faloon, Life Extension, Feb. 2008
Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, Groff, Gropper and Smith, pp. 370-375