Touted as a wonder supplement, coenzyme Q10 is said to enhance stamina, help weight loss, combat cancer and AIDS, and even stave off aging. Although these claims may be extravagant, this nutrient does show promise for heart disease, weak gums, and other ailments.
What it is
Coenzyme Q10, a natural substance produced by the body, belongs to a family of compounds called quinones. When it was first isolated in 1957, scientists called it ubiquinone, because it is ubiquitous in nature. In fact, coenzyme Q10 is found in all living creatures and is also concentrated in many foods, including nuts and oils. In the past decade, coenzyme Q10 has become one of the most popular dietary supplements around the world. Proponents of the nutrient use it to maintain general good health, as well as to treat heart disease and a number of other serious conditions. Some clinicians believe it is so important for normal body functioning that it should be dubbed "vitamin Q.'
What Does It Do
The primary function of coenzyme Q10 is as a catalyst for metabolism, the complex chain of chemical reactions during which food is broken down into packets of energy that the body can use. Acting in conjunction with enzymes (hence the name 'coenzyme), the compound speeds up the vital metabolic process, providing the energy that the cells need to digest food, heal wounds, maintain healthy muscles, and perform countless other bodily functions. Because of the nutrient's essential role in energy production, it's not surprising that it is found in every cell in the body. It is especially abundant in the energy-intensive cells of the heart, helping this organ beat more than 100,000 times each day. In addition, coenzyme Q10 acts as an antioxidant, much like vitamins C and E, helping to neutralize the cell-damaging molecules known as free radicals.
- Improves the heart and circulation in those with congestive heart failure, a weakened heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), high blood pressure, heart rhythm disorders, chest pain (angina), or Raynaud's disease.
- Treats gum disease and maintains healthy gums and teeth.
- Protects the nerves and may help slow Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease.
- May help prevent cancer and heart disease, and play a role in slowing down age-related degenerative changes.
- May improve the course of AIDS or cancer
Coenzyme Q10 may play a role in preventing cancer, heart attacks, and other diseases linked to free-radical damage. It's also used as a general energy enhancer and anti-aging supplement. Because levels of the compound diminish with age (and with certain diseases), some doctors recommend daily supplementation beginning about age 40.
Coenzyme Q10 has generated much excitement as a possible therapy for heart disease, especially congestive heart failure or a weakened heart. In some studies, patients with a poorly functioning heart have been found to improve greatly after adding the supplement to their conventional drugs and therapies. Other studies have shown that people with cardiovascular disease have low levels of this substance in their heart. Further research suggests that coenzyme Q10 may help protect against blood clots, lower high blood pressure, diminish irregular heartbeats, treat mitral valve prolapse, lessen symptoms of Raynauds disease (poor circulation in the extremities), and relieve chest pains (angina). If you have heart disease, talk with your doctor about taking this supplement. And remember; Coenzyme Q10 is intended as a complement to and not as a replacement for conventional medical treatments. Do not take this nutrient in place of heart drugs or other prescribed medications.
A few small studies suggest that coenzyme Q10 may prolong survival in those with breast or prostate cancer, though results remain inconclusive. It also appears to aid healing and reduce pain and bleeding in those with gum disease, and speed recovery following oral surgery. The supplement shows some promise against Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases and fibromyalgia, and it may improve stamina in those with AIDS. Certain practitioners believe the nutrient helps stabilize blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. There are many other claims made for the supplement; that it slows aging, aids weight loss, enhances athletic performance, combats chronic fatigue syndrome, relieves multiple allergies, and boosts immunity. But more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of coenzyme Q10 for these and other conditions.
How To Take It
Dosage: The general dosage is 50 mg twice a day. Higher dosages of 100 mg twice a day may be useful for heart or circulatory disorders, or for Alzheimer's disease and other specific complaints.
Guidelines For Use: Take a supplement morning and evening, and ideally with food to enhance absorption. Coenzyme Q10 should be continued long term; it may require eight weeks or longer to notice results.
Possible Side Effects
Most research suggests that the supplement is harmless, even in large doses. In rare cases, it may cause upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, or loss of appetite. But it appears to be very safe overall. Because coenzyme Q10 has not been extensively studied, however, check with your doctor before using it, especially if you are pregnant or nursing.
- Although coenzyme Q10 is widespread in nature, it is not cheap to buy. A typical daily dose of 100 mg can cost about $40 a month. Shop around a bit or try a mail-order vitamin supplier to get the lowest price.
- Look for capsules or tablets that contain coenzyme Q10 in an oil base (soybean or another oil). Because it is a fat-soluble compound, this nutrient is best absorbed when taken with food.
In a major study in Italy of more than 2,500 patients with congestive heart failure, 80% showed improvement when a daily dose of 100 mg of coenzyme Q10 was added to their other treatment. They had better color, less ankle swelling (edema) and shortness of breath, and they began to sleep better after taking the supplement for 90 days.
Pregnant or nursing women should be especially vigilant about checking with their doctor before using coenzyme Q10; the nutrient has not been well studied in this group.