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COENZYME Q10 / UBIQUINONE

by

Jean E. Pierog R.N; Nutritional Consultant

Coenzyme Q10 is also known as CoQ10 or ubiquinone. It was discovered in 1957 by biochemists and named "coenzyme", but is in fact a vitamin (Challem, 1994). Dr. Folkers, a biochemist and director of the Institute for Biomedical Research at the University of Texas in Austin, states that most people are not familiar with the term "coenzyme" and it should have been named "Vitamin Q". It may, in fact, be called a fat soluble vitamin since it has been shown to be essential and that there are health problems for persons who are deficient in it (Haas, 1992).

There are actually ten common coenzyme Qs, but Coenzyme Q10 is the only one found in human tissue. CoQ10 has been found to support the body's bioenergetic functions, along with other enzymes. It plays a critical role in the respiratory chain and the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which produces energy at the cellular level. CoQ10 is an electron carrier and is especially important in the cell mitochondria where the ATP is produced.

Ubiquinone also functions as a powerful antioxidant, protecting the body's cells from free radical damage. In fact, most sources agree that it is a more powerful antioxidant than Vitamin E (Carper, 1993). As such, it helps to slow the aging process and to decrease the risk of degenerative diseases. It is also found in high concentrations in LDL cholesterol particles, serving as a detoxifying agent (Carper, 1993). In addition, it has a membrane stabilizing activity.

The human body can actually produce its own CoQ10 if the diet provides enough vitamins B2, B3, B6, folic acid, pantothenic acid and Vitamin C. If any of these nutrients are deficient, the production of CoQ10 will decline. As a matter of fact, the body's levels of CoQ10 decline with age. They increase from birth until age 19-21 when the CoQ10 levels are at their peak. From that point, there is a steady fall in the level.

Rich sources of CoQ10 include sardines, mackerel, salmon, organ meats, eggs, beans, wheat germ, rice bran and nuts, especially peanuts, soybeans, pistachios, walnuts and sesame seeds. There are trace but almost insignificant amounts found in vegetables.

Besides its antioxidant activity, CoQ10 has been shown to help heart function by making the heart's pumping action more forceful, increasing the electrical activity and lowering blood pressure. In humans and animals, CoQ10 concentrates in the myocardium. In a fascinating article entitled "The Heart Remedy Your Doctor Never Heard Of", Jack Challem exposes the controversy over CoQ10's cardiac enhancing effects. He described how it changed the lives of two people who had end stage cardiomyopathy (severe heart failure, requiring heart transplantation). One woman, Betty Dwyer, was diagnosed at age 50 and told she had a short time to live, in addition to being an invalid until her death. After conventional therapy failed, she participated in a CoQ10 research study and took 100 mg of CoQ10 daily. After six months there were both subjective and objective improvements such as a reduced heart size, more efficient pumping and the ability to function in normal daily activities. She is virtually symptom free, as long as she continues to take 240 mg daily (Challem, 1994).

The second person, Fred Wilson age 50, was near death from cardiomyopathy. He started taking CoQ10 and within one month his New York Heart Classification went from a IV (most severe) to a I (no limits on physical activity).

As Challem points out, however, most cardiologists are not aware of CoQ10 nor of the research and conferences on it. He speculates that this is probably because it can be purchased at low cost from the health food stores and no pharmaceutical company can market it as a drug or medicine. Thus, the drug companies are not pushing the literature in the direction of the physicians to prescribe it. Instead, they are marketing beta blockers, ACE inhibiters, digitalis, and diuretics which are the traditional drugs that comprise conventional medical treatment of heart disease.

In reality there have been eight major medical conferences and many studies published in mainstream medical journals that support CoQ10's cardiac enhancing role (Challem, 1994). The following are brief descriptions of such studies.

In 1989, Dr. Per Langsjoen analyzed data from 806 patients with severe cardiac disease and found that significant benefits were derived from CoQ10 supplementation. Italian researchers described the improvement of 80% of 1,100 patients with heart failure taking CoQ10. A third study involving 1,700 patients showed that symptoms of heart failure were dramatically reduced (Challem, 1994).

In 1993, Mortensen investigated 45 patients with various cardiomyopathies. Myocardial tissue levels of CoQ10 were found to be significantly lower in patients with more advanced heart failure compared with those who had milder stages of heart failure. In addition, the tissue deficiency was found to be restored following oral supplementation (100 mg) in two-thirds of the patients and clinical improvement ensued. The author comments that double-blind placebo-controlled trials have definitely confirmed that CoQ10 has a place alongside conventional therapies with beneficial effects on clinical outcome and improvement in the patient's physical activity and the quality of life (Mortensen, 1993).

In 1990, Mortensen and his colleagues reported another clinical trial with CoQ10. In 40 patients with severe heart failure, 69% of cardiomyopathy patients and 43% of ischemic heart disease patients improved both clinically and subjectively following 100 mg of CoQ10 daily. Once again, they demonstrated that those with the severest heart disease improved the most and initially had the lowest levels of CoQ10 in their myocardial tissue. They speculate that energy deficiency of the myocytes may play a significant role in the progressiion of heart failure (Mortensen, et. al., 1990).

Another study conducted in 1985 by Kanikawa et. al., showed that CoQ10 given in doses of 150 mg a day to 10 patients with angina pectoris (chest pain) had a 53% reduction of anginal episodes after 4 weeks of treatment (Werbach, 1988).

Fujioka et. al. demonstrated the antiarrhythmic action of Coenzyme Q10 in diabetics in 1983. They showed that premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) in 27 patients were reduced by 85.7%, suggesting that CoQ10 has an antiarrhythmic action on the heart (Werbach, 1988).

Two different studies by Folkers et. al. in 1985 showed that: 1) In a study of 80 patients, 89% improved after 12 weeks in such clinical parameters as an increased cardiac ejection fraction (more blood pumped), a reduced shortness of breath and an increase in muscle strength. When CoQ10 was discontinued, cardiac function deteriorated. 2) Of 34 patients with severe congestive cardiomyopathy, 82% showed improvement with an increased stroke volume and cardiac index after receiving 100 mg a day. Their ejection fractions doubled and the two year survival rate was 62% compared to 25% for a similar group of patients treated by only conventional methods (Werbach, 1988).

In addition to the beneficial cardiac effects of CoQ10, it is also credited with enhancement of the immune system, reduction of blood pressure, reduction of symptoms of asthma, allergies and respiratory disease (because of its ability to counter histamine), and better mental functioning in people with schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease. It is also beneficial with obesity, candidiasis, multiple sclerosis, periodontal disease, ulcers, and diabetes (Balch & Balch, 1990).

Of particular interest is its potential role in tumor regression. The New England Institute reports that CoQ10 alone reduced the mortality of experimental animals that had leukemia or tumors (Balch & Balch, 1990). In 1994, Lockwood, et. al. reported their findings of breast cancer patients in relation to CoQ10 in the Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications journal. They studied 32 patients with high risk breast cancer and treated them with antioxidants, fatty acids and 90 mg of CoQ10. Six of 32 showed partial tumor regression. In one of the six, the dose of CoQ10 was increased to 390 mg daily and in two months mammography confirmed that the tumor was gone. After that, a second woman with residual tumor after surgery was placed on 300 mg of CoQ10 and in 3 months there was no residual tumor tissue (Lockwood, et. al., 1994).

It is speculated that even in healthy people, CoQ10 supplementation may improve performance. In 1981, Folkers, et. al. studied six healthy males who were given 60 mg of CoQ10 a day for 4-8 weeks. On a bicycle ergometer test they showed improvements in work capacity, maximal workload, maximal oxygen consumption and oxygen transport (Werbach, 1988). Although the number of subjects is not significant, it may suggest an association and further research should be done.

Coenzyme Q10 can be purchased in health food stores but not all products are of the purest form. Its natuaral color is bright yellow. It should be stored away from light and heat as with any vitamin. The suggested amount of CoQ10 to take for effectiveness and increased energy levels in healthy people is probably 10-20 mg twice a day. For heart patients, Dr. Langsjoen recommends a therapeutic dose of 120- 360 mg. a day (Challem, 1994). In 80% of Dr. Langsjoen's patients, he notes clinical and subjective improvements within 4 weeks and maximal improvement in 6-12 months. Interestingly, some cardiac drugs can cause or aggravate a CoQ10 deficiency, namely the popular cholesterol lowering drug, Lovastatin.

The beauty of CoQ10 supplementation is twofold: there are no known side effects from taking too much and it is inexpensive and widely available.

 

REFERENCES

Balch, James F. & Balch, Phyllis A.  Prescription for Nutritional Healing.  New York: Avery Publishing Group, Inc.  p 10.  1990.

Carper, Jean.  Food--Your Miracle Medicine.  New York:  HarperCollins Publishers. pp 10, 57, 461.  1993.

Challem, Jack.  "The Heart Remedy Your Doctor Never Heard Of" in Natural Health. March/April. pp 44-50.  1994.

Haas, Elson M.  Staying Healthy with Nutrition.  California:  Celestial Arts.  pp 269-270. 1992.

Lockwood, K.; Moesgaard, S.; Folkers, K.  "Partial and Complete Regression of Breast Cancer in Patients in Relation to Dosage of Coenzyme Q10" in Biochemical and  Biophysical Research Communications.  199 (3).  pp1504-8.  3/30/94.

Mortensen, S.A.  "Perspectives on Therapy of Cardiovascular Diseases with Coenzyme Q10" in Clinical Investigator.  71 (8 Suppl.).  S116-23.  1993.

Mortensen, S. A.; Vadhanavikit, S.; Muratsu, K.; Folkers K.  "Coenzyme Q10:  Clinical  Benefits with Biochemical Correlates Suggesting a Scientific Breakthrough in the Management of Chronic Heart Failure" in International Journal of Tissue Reactions.  12 (3).  pp 155-62.  1990.

Rector-Page, Linda G.  Healthy Healing:  An Alternative Healing Reference.  9th ed.  US:  Healthy Healing Publications.  pp 30, 65.  1992.

Werbach, Melvyn, MD.  Nutritional Influences on Illness:  A Sourcebook of Clinical Research.  Connecticut:  Keats Publishing, Inc.,  pp 66-67; 119; 122; 137-38; 179; 237-38; 320; 355; 421.  1988.


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