Coenzyme Q 10
is a vitamin-like nutrient that is vital to the production of energy. As one of the electron carriers in the electron transport system, it helps cells utilize oxygen. If you have ever wondered how we get energy from food, or why we have to breathe oxygen, it is because the body strips food of electrons and transports them to an electron acceptor, which is oxygen.
Co Q 10 facilitates this process, providing one of the “spark plugs” for the creation of cellular energy. Without Co Q 10, we would not have enough energy to fuel the physiological reactions we need to survive (Folkers K & Wolaniuk A. Drugs Exp Clin Res. 1985;11(8):539-45). Dr. Folkers notes that CoQ 10 levels falling to 75% may cause illness, whereas falling to 25% may cause death (Folkers, ibid). There is evidence showing that low Co Q 10 levels can lead to death within six months (Statistical data support prediction of death within 6 months on low levels of coenzyme Q 10 and other entities. (Clin Investig 1993;71 (8 supp):S137-39). Coenzyme Q10 concentration in the mitochondria (sometimes called the “powerhouse” of the cell) is not believed to be saturated, which is one of the reasons researchers think that supplementation is having beneficial effects (Clin Investig 1993;71(8 Suppl):S66-70).
Numerous therapeutic effects of coenzyme Q10 have been reported, most notably in areas where oxygen transport is critical, for instance heart disease, aging and periodontal disease. Since an adequate supply of oxygen is necessary for tissue repair and immune function, many applications have been reported in these areas. Additionally, coenzyme Q10 has therapeutic potential because of its antioxidant properties (fights damaging free radicals). It is easy to see that coenzyme Q10 has a wide variety of functions and applications in the body, such as…
The ability that coenzyme Q10 has for increasing oxygen delivery and energy supply contributes to its reputation for supporting the cardiovascular system in clinical trials, including mitral valve prolapse, angina, cardiomyopathy, hypertension (Folkers K et al., Treatment of essential hypertension with Coenzyme Q 10. Mol Aspects Med 1994;15(Suppl):S265-72) , and congestive heart failure (Morisco C. et al. Effect of coenzyme Q 10 therapy in patients with congestive heart failure: a long-term multicenter randomized study). In one clinical trial, 150 mg/day of coenzyme Q10 was administered for 10 months to two patients with mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, and results showed a significant improvement in oxygen consumption, in the ability to reach a higher workload and improvement of mitochondrial function (Neurology 1992;42(6):1203). It should be noted that some cholesterol-lowering drugs and beta blockers can reduce levels of Co Q 10, whereas Co Q 10 supplementation has been shown to reduce the drug-induced fatigue experienced by people taking beta blockers (Biomedical and Clinical Aspects of Coenzyme Q 10 Vol. 4. Folkers, K. & Yakamura Y (eds). Elsevier Science Publ. Amsterdam, 1984, pp. 263-270).
With its ability to prevent mitochondrial damage and act as an antioxidant, “it is interesting to speculate that coenzyme Q10 might play a fundamental role in decelerating aging” (Lee, WH et al. PhD, Coenzyme Q 10. Keats Publ., New Canaan, Connecticut 1987). Research suggests that Co Q 10 levels decline in illness, environmental stress, and aging, and these deficiencies could play a role in the age-related decline in immune system function (Folkers; Bliznakov, EG. Immunological senescence in mice and its reversal by coenzyme Q 10. Mech Aging Dev Mar. 1978;7(3):189-97). In one study, Co Q 10 was able to reverse the age-related deterioration of the immune system in mice (Bliznakov ibid).
One of the theories of impaired memory involves lack of oxygen utilization by the brain, a function that is supported by Co Q 10. The research which has been conducted on coenzyme Q10 suggests that sufficient coenzyme Q10 must be administered for a long enough period (usually 4-12 weeks), to achieve results, which is consistent with a buildup of enzyme activity. For instance, 60 mg of coenzyme Q10 was administered for 6 months, along with vitamin B-6 and iron, to a 49 year old woman with Alzheimer’s disease, who had a one year history of progressive memory impairment.
It is believed that mitochondrial electron activity is reduced in Alzheimer’s patients, and the lack of energy fuel may be implicated in furthuring development of the neurofibrillary tangles seen on the nerves in Alzheimer’s (Neurology 1990;40:1302-03). Co-enzyme Q 10, of course, supports the production of mitochondrial electron activity. Post-treatment, there was increased blood flow of the cerebral cortex, faster alpha wave activity, and, “her mental state improved to almost normal after 6 months of therapy…symptoms progressed with cessation of the therapy and improved with its resumption” (Wilkinson EG et al. Bioenergetics in clinical medicine. Res Commun Chem Pathol Pharmacol 1975;12:111).
Coenzyme Q10 “has demonstrated excellent results in clinical trials on periodontal disease… The studies have been positive in showing a speedup of healing time, reduced pockets, and improvements in other factors associated with gum disease” (Mayell, M. The Natural Health First Aid Guide. 1994. Pocket Booksj, NY, NY. p. 298). In one trial, coenzyme Q10 elicited postsurgical healing that was two to three times faster than usual in 7 patients with advanced periodontal disease (Wilkinson EG et al. Bioenergetics in clinical medicine. Res Commun Chem Pathol Pharmacol 1975;12:111).
In addition to being associated with energy production, Co Q 10 is a powerful antioxidant. It has the ability to decrease the amount of harmful free radical activity in the body (Grieb, P. Antioxidant systems – physiology and pharmacotherapy trends. Mater Med Pol 1992 24(4):217-222).
There are not many studies that have been conducted in this area, however, research done by Lockwood et al. indicates that there is some evidence that CoQ 10 may be helpful in supporting the treatment for breast cancer (Lockwood K et al. Progress on therapy of breast cancer with vitamin Q 10 and the regression of metastases. Biochem Biophys Res Commun Jul 1995;6;212(1):172-77).
Obviously, there are many clinical applications for Coenzyme Q 10. Some of the benefits this nutrient offers are in supporting various physiological functions and organ systems, including: generally increasing oxygen delivery to tissues; heart function, brain function, periodontal health, antioxidant status, memory, increased blood flow, blood pressure, mitochondrial function (energy production), and tissue healing. There are so many aspects of importance in Co Q 10, that many people believe it should be included in the category of conditionally essential nutrients. It is definitely a nutrient of choice when looking to support oxygen delivery and energy production.
* Drug-nutrient interactions: Swedish researches have observed that patients taking Coenzyme Q10 and Coumadin at the same time had their bleeding time significantly changed, and the Coumadin was less effective. A knowledgable health care practitioner should always be consulted when a patient is on any blood thinner, as there are several contraindications involved.
Synergistic ingredients in Co Q 10 Plus
- Vitamin E – Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant that works best in a lipid, or fat-based environment. This means that it’s activity is strongest in areas such as cell membranes, which are made up of fatty acids. Vitamin E protects the cell membrane from oxidative damage.
- Quercetin – Quercetin is a high-powered bioflavonoid, with antioxidant, antiinflammatory, and antiplatelet activity (Biochem Pharmacol 1983;32:1141-1148; Biochem. Pharmacol. 45:13-9). It is the backbone of many of the other flavonoids, and indeed has been called, “the most important flavonoid” by Nutrition in Cancer (Nutr. Cancer 1993, 20:21-9).
- Alpha-lipoic acid – Alpha-lipoic acid is another good antioxidant, with specific activity directed to binding heavy metals. Lipoic acid is also an energy substrate substance, and is used in the Kreb’s cycle, which is the cycle that produces energy in our mitochondria.
- Olive oil – Coenzyme Q 10 must be in a fat-soluble transport system for optimal bioavailability, and olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat and therefore highly resistant to oxidation.
Written by Lynn Toohey Ph.D.