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For years, Coenzyme Q10 has been a popular supplement for serious fitness enthusiasts looking to support overall wellness and defend against the common symptoms of aging. Researchers have long been aware of its numerous benefits, and medical doctors have begun suggesting Coenzyme Q10 supplementation to their patients, particularly those that are taking cholesterol-modulating statins (for reasons we'll get into later).
Coenzyme Q10 (or CoQ10) is a crucial enzyme found in every cell of the human body, where it plays a critical role in the most basic and important of intracellular processes -- it helps cells produce energy in the form of ATP. CoQ10 also has potent antioxidant properties and may provide support for cognitive function and general energy levels.
In many cases, especially among young people, your body produces most of the CoQ10 it needs. CoQ10 can also be found in small amounts in meat, fish and whole grains. However, after the age of 30, your natural levels of CoQ10 begin to decline. After the age of 50, that rate of decline grows even steeper. Highly active people and those with cardiovascular issues may feel the impact of lowered CoQ10 levels earlier, while the age of 50, not coincidentally, is when most people really begin to feel the effects of age.
The connection is clear. Coenzyme Q10 (and its attendant ATP) is literally the energy circuit of every cell in your body, including muscle tissue. Every bicep contraction owes its existence to the presence of ATP-generating CoQ10. Think of your heart: it beats more than 100,000 times per day. CoQ10 also acts as an antioxidant, scavenging free radicals generally and specifically preventing the initiation or propagation of lipid peroxidation in cell membranes, providing key cellular defense against oxidative damage.
Antioxidant and Cognitive Benefits
Excessive free radical damage caused by oxidative stress can cause mitochondrial dysfunction and impair physical performance. In a randomized, double-blind, cross-over trial published in the journal Muscle Nerve, 30 patients with mitochondrial cytopathy received 1200 mg/day CoQ10 for 60 days while submitting to bouts of cycling exercise. CoQ10 treatment was found to attenuate the rise in lactate after cycle ergometry and resulted in measurable effects on cycle exercise aerobic capacity and post-exercise lactate levels. (1 Elisa I Glover)
CoQ10 has also been linked to support of cognitive function and focus. The brain is particularly susceptible to oxidative damage due to its high fatty acid content and prodigious demand for oxygen. Obviously, elevated cell damage in the brain can effect memory, cognition, focus, and even physical functions. As a protector of cell membrane integrity, CoQ10 may help to mitigate these effects.
CoQ10 has even been shown to help reduce the frequency of migraine headaches, for what researchers believe is the same reason. In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial published in the journal Neurology, researchers supplemented subjects with either CoQ10 or placebo and found that the CoQ10 subjects responded by experiencing lesser attack-frequency, and fewer headache days and days with nausea. (2 P S Sándor)
The brain isn't the only organ particularly dependent on CoQ10 levels in the cell. More and more research is emerging to suggest that CoQ10 functions as a crucial lifeline for the heart.
Heart Health and CoQ10 Supplementation
We mentioned earlier that some doctors are suggesting that patients medicating with statins to reduce blood cholesterol levels should consider CoQ10 supplementation as well. There is scientific validation for this approach.
Although statin therapy can significantly reduce heart attack and stroke risk, up to 25% of patients quit treatment within six months due to side effects such as muscle aches and weakness. In a randomized clinical study published in Medical Science Monitor, 75% of statin users with muscle symptoms reported reduced pain after taking CoQ10 twice a day for 30 days, versus zero improvement in the placebo group. The researchers concluded that combining statin therapy with CoQ10 supplements could lead to higher compliance with treatment. (3 Ajda Skarlovnik)
In another randomized clinical trial published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, patients who received CoQ10 soon after a heart attack had a much lower rate of subsequent cardiac events over the next year than a control group (24.6% vs 45%). (4 Ram B Singh). CoQ10 supplementation may also lower the levels of inflammatory biomarkers shown to be risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.
Finally, CoQ10 supplementation may help people improve cardiovascular symptoms and reduce their risk of major cardiovascular events. In a published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 420 subjects were randomly assigned to a 2-year prospective trial with either CoQ10 (100 mg 3 times daily) or placebo. Long-term CoQ10 treatment of patients with chronic heart failure was determined to improve symptoms and reduce major adverse cardiovascular events. (5 Svend A Mortensen)
Benefits of CoQ10 Supplementation
Clearly, much more research needs to be done to further validate the beneficial effects of CoQ10 supplementation, particularly with regard to heart health. But just in terms of energy production, antioxidant protection, and general anti-aging effects, CoQ10 supplementation shows great potential for positive outcomes.
If you are considering adding CoQ10 to your supplementation regimen, recognize that CoQ10 is a fat-soluble nutrient and is best absorbed when taken with food. As always, the highest-quality formulations of this enzyme, processed to ensure maximum potency and benefits, are your best bet, so seek out a reputable supplement manufacturer.
1 Elisa I Glover, Joan Martin, Amy Maher, Rebecca E Thornhill, Gerald R Moran, Mark A Tarnopolsky. A randomized trial of coenzyme Q10 in mitochondrial disorders. Muscle Nerve, 2010 Nov;42(5):739-48.
2 P S Sándor, L Di Clemente, G Coppola, U Saenger, A Fumal, D Magis, L Seidel, R M Agosti, J Schoenen. Efficacy of coenzyme Q10 in migraine prophylaxis: a randomized controlled trial. Neurology, 2005 Feb 22;64(4):713-5.
3 Ajda Skarlovnik, Miodrag Janić, Mojca Lunder, Martina Turk, Mišo ŠabovičA. Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation Decreases Statin-Related Mild-to-Moderate Muscle Symptoms: A Randomized Clinical Study. Med Sci Monit. 2014; 20: 2183–2188.
4 Ram B Singh, Narankar Singh Neki, Kumar Kartikey, Daniel Pella, Adarsh Kumar, Mohammad Arif Niaz, Amar Singh Thakur. Effect of coenzyme Q10 on risk of atherosclerosis in patients with recent myocardial infarction. Mol Cell Biochem, 2003 Apr;246(1-2):75-82.
5 Svend A Mortensen, Franklin Rosenfeldt, Adarsh Kumar, Peter Dolliner, Krzysztof J Filipiak, Daniel Pella, Urban Alehagen, Günter Steurer, Gian P Littarru, Q-SYMBIO Study Investigators. The effect of coenzyme Q10 on morbidity and mortality in chronic heart failure: results from Q-SYMBIO: a randomized double-blind trial. JACC Heart Fail, 2014 Dec;2(6):641-9.
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