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Now as commonly recognizable as vitamin C, coenzyme Q10 may not be as commonly understood. Co-Q10 is present in, and required by, every cell in your body to assist in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), your cell's first-line source of energy. Because your body, at any one time, only contains enough reserves of cellular energy to allow you to walk from one side of a room to the other before having to refuel, it is imperative that your cells be able to constantly recreate it. Equally important is Co-Q10's role in cardiovascular health. Without sufficient Co-Q10 in your body, blood clot formation may increase and your heart would have a difficult time effectively circulating your blood. Highest in concentrations during the first twenty years of life, this becomes especially important after the age of 50, as it is believed that as much as 75% of the population over the age of 50 may be deficient in Co-Q10, especially in conjunction with the presence of conditions such as muscular dystrophy, Parkinson's, cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS. Other important functions of Co-Q10 include aiding in muscular contraction, the production of proteins and acting as an antioxidant.
The Role of Coenzyme Q10 in the Body
What part of this definition is the most important? The part that points out that fat soluble compounds are stored in fat. Unlike water soluble compounds which make their way out of the body after the body has taken and used what it needs, fat soluble compounds are used and the remainder is stored in body tissues. Why is this important to know? Well, compounds which are stored in the body can build up over time. You need to be aware of this so that you take the correct amount for your body and not more than it needs at any one time. Fat soluble compounds are best absorbed with fats in a meal.
Coenzyme Q10 stores are primarily synthesized by the body and partially consumed in the diet. Co-Q10 is required for mitochondrial ATP (your cell's first-line source of energy). This is where we'll stop for a moment and branch into a bit of physiology and anatomy.
Mitochondria are usually depicted as tiny threadlike or sausage-shaped organelles, but in living cells they squirm, lengthen, and change shape almost continuously. Their wall consists of a double membrane, equal to two plasma membranes, placed side by side. The outer membrane is smooth, but the inner membrane has shelflike protrusions called cristae (kris'te). Enzymes dissolved in the fluid within the mitochondria, as well as enzymes that form part of the cristae membranes, carry out the reactions in which oxygen is used to break down foods.
As the foods are broken down, energy is released. Much of this energy escapes as heat, but some is captured and used to form ATP molecules. ATP provides the energy for all cellular work and every living cell requires a constant supply of ATP for its many activities. Because the mitochondria supply most of this ATP, they are referred to as the "powerhouses" of the cell.
Every cell in your body has mitochondria. Metabolically "busy" cells, like liver and muscle cells, use huge amounts of ATP and have hundreds of mitochondria. By contrast, cells that are relatively inactive (an unfertilized egg, for instance) have just a few. 1
Not only does Co-Q10 participate in cellular energy production, it also plays a pivotal role in garbage collection (the digestion of cellular debris). Lysosomes, like mitochondria, are organelles in a cell which specialize in the digestion of cellular debris. The lysosomal membranes that separate the digestive enzymes from the rest of the cell contain relatively high concentrations of Co-Q10. It is Co-Q10 which help lysosomes function at peak capacity.
In coenzyme Q10's fully reduced form, known as ubiquinol, Co-Q10 is an effective antioxidant. Co-Q10 protects cell membrane proteins and DNA from the oxidative damage that accompanies fat oxidation (when your body uses up stored fat to produce energy). In addition to neutralizing free radicals directly, ubiquinol is capable of regenerating oxidized vitamin E, another fat-soluble antioxidant.
When LDL (lousy cholesterol) is oxidized in the body above the normal rate the body can handle, it can lead to atherosclerosis. Co-Q10 inhibits the oxidation of LDL by working together with vitamin E. In fact, Co-Q10 actually takes oxidized vitamin E, in its ineffective form, and turns it back into its fighting form so they can work together. Studies show that co-supplementation of Co-Q10 and vitamin E was more effective in inhibiting atherosclerosis in mice than supplementation with either vitamin E or Co-Q10 alone.
The finding that myocardial coenzyme Q10 levels were lower in patients with more severe versus milder heart failure led to several clinical trials of coenzyme Q10 supplementation in heart failure patients. A number of small intervention trials that administered supplemental coenzyme Q10 to congestive heart failure patients, in conjunction with conventional medical therapy have demonstrated improvements in some cardiac function measures. 2
A double blind placebo controlled study by R.B. Sing and colleagues was published in the December 1998 issue of "Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy" regarding the benefits of coenzyme Q 10 to prevent heart attacks in individuals who already experienced one .The study found that individuals who received Co-Q10 supplements every day within three days of a heart attack were less likely to have subsequent heart attacks and chest pain. In addition, the same subjects were less likely to die of heart disease than those individuals who received dummy pills. Individuals who follow a statin drug therapy should consider supplementation with coenzyme Q10. According to Dr. Ross Pelton, Ph.D., an author of "Drug Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook," a variety of drugs create Q10 deficiency, and statin drugs are on top of the list. 3
Every day, our skin is barraged with toxins in our environment from cigarette smoke to air pollution to ultraviolet light which all accelerate the aging process of our skin. The antioxidant properties of Co-Q10 help to fight free radicals produced by these toxins, allowing our skin to age more gracefully.
Coenzyme Q10 provides needed energy to improve the effectiveness of exercise as it increases oxygen utilization and fat metabolism. By improving the efficiency of how raw energy components are converted into ATP, coenzyme Q10 stimulates metabolic rate and controls how quickly fat is released from our white adipose tissue. Researchers have found that combining coenzyme Q10 with regular aerobic exercise significantly increases fat release compared with just exercise alone. 4
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Co-Q10 supplements may improve and balance blood sugar levels and help control high blood pressure in diabetics, but there is some concern it could potentially cause hypoglycemia. Despite this concern, researchers have noted in a few clinical studies that diabetics given 400 mg of Co-Q10 daily showed no hypoglycemic response. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor before using Co-Q10. 5
Nutritional Sources of Coenzyme Q10
Meat, fish and poultry are the richest sources of dietary Co-Q10 and levels over 50mg/kg can be found in the hearts and livers of beef, pork and chicken, according to the "American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide". Dairy products are much poorer sources of Co-Q10 but vegetable oils are considered quite a good source. Soybeans are also a very good source, as are parsley and avocado.
Co-Q10 is synthesized in most human tissues and involves three other critically important compounds; tyrosine (an amino acid), vitamin B5 and coenzyme A (CoA). All three need to be present for the biosynthesis of Co-Q10 and all three are readily available in a varied and healthy diet.
Between dietary intake and what your body produces internally, you should never be deficient in coenzyme Q10 unless one or both of these become ineffective. Factors working against us include age (highest concentrations happen in the first 20 years of life), poor nutrition and disease. No Co-Q10 deficiency symptoms have been reported in the general population, so it is generally assumed that normal biosynthesis and a varied diet provide sufficient coenzyme Q10 for the health of most individuals.
Supplemental Co-Q10 is available in over-the-counter doses for adults ranging from 30 mg up to 100mg, which is considerably higher than normal dietary coenzyme Q10 intake. Therapeutic doses, always administered under a professional's watchful eye, can range up to 3,000mg per day. This high of a dose is only used by health care professionals to treat existing conditions, such as Parkinson's.
It may be helpful to supplement with coenzyme Q10 if you have heart problems or high blood pressure. While it's true that Co-Q10 may keep the antitumor drug doxorubicin from hurting the heart, there have been instances where Warfarin (an anticoagulant) is not compatible (Co-Q10 can reduce the body's response to drug thinners). It can even decrease insulin requirements in people with diabetes. If you have diabetes and are taking Co-Q10, you should tell your primary health care provider that you are taking both so that your requirements can be monitored.
Nutter's Can Suggest...
CoQ10 is required by every cell in our body and is the key to chemical reactions that produce cellular energy. Just as an automobile engine with poor spark plugs chokes, sputters and dies, without enough CoQ10 (our cellular spark plug) our health can break down, resulting in all kinds of degenerative diseases. Studies show that CoQ10 may be effective for congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, some forms of cancer, and gum disease.
1. Essentials of Human Anatomy & Physiology, Seventh Edition, Elaine N. Marieb
2. Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Research, Oregon State University
3. What Are The Benefits of CoQ10 & Statin Drugs?
4. "Coenzyme Q10 Boosts Energy, Promotes Heart Health and Assists Weight Loss"
5. CoQ10 & Hypoglycemia
Suggested Further Reading...
There's a great website with more information on coenzyme Q10 at the following URL:
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner, registered with Natural Health Practitioners Canada, who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 10 years experience in her area of expertise, naturopathic medicine, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch ® Practitioner and Reflexologist.
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.