Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a substance that has been receiving some attention in the last few years. It is a vital component of electron transport in the mitochondria of ALL cells. I want to do a couple of post concerning this molecule, how it works and what makes it disappear. Now for a little background in cellular biology for those that need the refresher, or for those who aren’t familiar with it.
All cells in the human body have what are called mitochondria. Mitochondria can be thought of as the cell’s powerhouse. They make what is called ATP for the rest of the functions the cell needs to survive. CoQ10 is part of the “assembly line” so to speak of how this crucial ATP is formed. Without it, we don’t make ATP in the quantities that we now make it. Our cells have the ability to make ATP without mitochondria, however the yield is abysmal in comparison. CoQ10 is also found in the lipoproteins in our body which carry cholesterol in the blood vessels. The CoQ10 is responsible as an important antioxidant to keep the lipoprotein from becoming oxidized and initiating inflammation.
CoQ10 peaks at about 20 years of age and then begins to decline as shown below.
Notice that the heart seems to lose the most. CoQ10 is extremely important in the heart because, well, your heart requires a lot of energy to pump 24/7. Kidneys also seem to get hit hard with the decrease as we age. By the time we hit our 70’s and 80’s the numbers are as low as those of newborns or lower.¹
This poses a problem as we age because we still need energy to live and function, but that energy is in lower supply. It also becomes an issue when looking at antioxidant status of cells and lipoproteins. Lets discuss some of these in order of the following:
1. Antioxidant use
2. Energy for the heart
Antioxidants are well-known to us. Many think of vitamin C or E as antioxidants as well as the many that exist in foods such as blueberries or other plant foods. One way in which CoQ10 benefits humans is the ability to prevent the LDL from becoming oxidized. This is important as oxidized LDL is thought to be an initiator in the inflammation process which causes atherosclerosis in arteries. CoQ10 can also rejuvenate vitamin E by taking radicals from the α-tocopherol molecule. Thus the molecule reverts back to being essentially a brand new antioxidant, even though it had already been used up. Radicals are those pesky particles that cause damage to tissue and even DNA, which can cause mutation and other health problems. They are also thought to play a part in aging.
Energy for the heart as stated above is very important. It is the one muscle that is constantly working as long as one is alive. We need CoQ10 to make that energy for pumping blood. People that suffer from congestive heart failure (CHF) are unable to pump blood as efficiently as a person who has no dysfunction. Part of the problem is the heart doesn’t have enough energy to pump the blood. CHF becomes complicated when fluid builds up in the lungs and breathing becomes difficult. CoQ10 has been shown to increase the ability of the heart to pump blood and decrease symptoms of CHF. Peter Langsjoen, a cardiologist in Texas, has done much research into the usefulness of CoQ10 and has published several studies concerning the molecule. A video of him talking about it to dental students can be found here. He also co-authored a paper that explains many of the studies done on the heart with CoQ10 here. I want to go over just a couple of those studies.
In one study, 424 patients with different types of heart failure were treated with on average 240mg/day of CoQ10. They followed up for 8 years with an average follow-up of 18 months. Improvements were seen in NYHA functional status and 50% reduction on average of concomitant cardiovascular medication used. Effects were apparent at 1 month with maximal effects at 6 months. Withdrawal of the supplement resulted in patients declining to pre-treatment levels within 3-6 months.²
Another in-vitro study shows that supplementation with CoQ10 can increase the amount of the substance in LDL particles, increasing their defense against oxidation³. While I don’t know of any hard study endpoints like mortality or MI reduction, this could be important in the fight against primary and secondary heart disease.
Some studies have also shown a reduction in blood pressure on CoQ10 supplementation with as little as 100mg/day.
In the next post we’ll look at depletion and supplementation. I think this is a very important supplement for many people. I routinely recommend it at the counseling window at the pharmacy. For those of you who have time I recommend the two links. The video is 40 min in length so you may not be able to watch it all at once, but take a look. The latter parts deal more with periodontal disease rather than heart but there are pearls that Dr. Langsjoen reviews that I believe are beneficial. Until next time.
1. Kalen A, Appelkvist E-L, Dallner G: Age related changes in the lipid composition of rat and human tissues. Lipids 24: 579–584, 1989.
2. H.A. Langsjoen, P.H. Langsjoen, P.H. Langsjoen, R. Willis and K. Folkers, Usefulness of coenzyme Q10 in clinical cardiology: a long-term study, Molecular Aspects of Medicine 15(Suppl.) (1994), s165–s175.
3. R. Aejmelaeus, T. Metsä-Ketelä, P. Laippala, H. Alho and T. Solakvi, Ubiquinol-10 and total peroxyl radical trappingcapacity of LDL lipoproteins during aging: the effects of Q-10 supplementation, Molecular Aspects ofMedicine 18(Suppl.) (1997), s113–s120.
Disclaimer: All info on this website is for education purposes only. Any dietary or lifestyle changes that readers want to make should be done with the guidance of a competent medical practitioner. The author assumes no responsibility nor liability for the use or dissemination of this information. Anyone who chooses to apply this information for their own personal use does so at their own risk.