Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a substance similar to a vitamin. It is found in every cell of the body. Your body makes CoQ10, and your cells use it to produce energy your body needs for cell growth and maintenance. It also functions as an antioxidant, which protects the body from damage caused by harmful molecules. CoQ10 is naturally present in small amounts in a wide variety of foods, but levels are particularly high in organ meats such as heart, liver, and kidney, as well as beef, soy oil, sardines, mackerel, and peanuts. Coenzymes help enzymes work to digest food and perform other body processes, and they help protect the heart and skeletal muscles.
History of CoQ10
CoQ10 was first discovered by Professor Fredrick L. Crane and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Enzyme Institute in 1957. In 1958, its chemical structure was reported by Dr. Karl Folkers and coworkers at Merck. In 1972, Gian Paolo Littarru and Karl Folkers separately demonstrated a deficiency of CoQ10 in human heart disease. The 1980s witnessed a steep rise in the number of clinical trials due to the availability of large quantities of pure CoQ10 and methods to measure plasma and blood CoQ10 concentrations. The antioxidant role of the molecule as a free radical scavenger was widely studied by Lars Ernster. Numerous scientists around the globe started studies on this molecule since then in relation to various diseases including cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
CoQ10 and Heart Health
The usefulness of CoQ10 as a medical treatment has largely been approached from the perspective that when a chronic disease is present (especially in the case of heart disease) CoQ10 is often grossly deficient. For example, a person suffering from congestive heart failure often demonstrates extreme CoQ10 deficiency. Normal blood and tissue levels of CoQ10 have been well established. Significantly low levels of CoQ10 have been linked to a vast variety of diseases in both animal and human studies.
The Causes of CoQ10 Deficiency
There are at least three causes for CoQ10 deficiency.
Insufficient diet. Dietary intake of CoQ10 is an important factor in total blood and tissue levels of the compound. If we do not consume enough of the foods that contain CoQ10 then the body must make up the difference. Further, the biosynthesis of Coenzyme Q10 is a complex 17-step process involving a whole string of B vitamins, vitamin C and pantothenic acid. Diets deficient in these compounds make CoQ10 synthesis impossible.
Impairment of CoQ10 biosynthesis. In addition to inadequate intakes of the compounds necessary to make CoQ10 other biological reasons for inadequate production of it might include physiological conditions and chronic diseases that cause failure in production. The treatments of diseases can also be a factor. For instance the use of statins to control cholesterol levels has been implicated in the depletion of CoQ10 levels. The catch-22 is, in treating heart disease we use drugs that deplete natural compounds that in turn are necessary to fight heart disease.
Excessive use of the compound by the body. This again can be related to medications, aging or other causes such as excessive exertion, hypermetabolism, and acute shock states.
If you have a condition whose treatment may be augmented by CoQ10, you should consult your physician to determine the best dosage. Below are standard dosages published by the National Institutes of Health.
- For known coenzyme Q-10 deficiency: 150 mg daily.
- For mitochondrial disorders (mitochondrial encephalomyopathies): 150-160 mg, or 2 mg/kg/day. In some cases, doses may be gradually increased to 3000 mg per day.
- For heart failure in adults: 100 mg per day divided into 2 or 3 doses.
- For reducing the risk of future cardiac events in patients with recent myocardial infarction: 120 mg daily in 2 divided doses.
- For high blood pressure: 120-200 mg per day divided into 2 doses.
- For isolated systolic hypertension: 60 mg twice daily.
- For preventing migraine headache: 100 mg three times daily. A dose of 1-3 mg/kg has also been used in pediatric and adolescent patients.
- For Parkinson’s disease: 300 mg, 600 mg, 1200 mg, and 2400 mg per day in 3-4 divided doses.
- For HIV/AIDS: 200 mg per day.
- For infertility in men: 200-300 mg per day.
- For muscular dystrophy: 100 mg per day.
- For pre-eclampsia: 100 mg twice daily starting at week 20 of pregnancy until delivery.
Dividing the total daily dose by taking smaller amounts two or three times a day instead of a large amount all at once can help reduce side effects.
Click the play button below to listen to an interview with pharmacist John Abdelmalek, Rph, who talks with Ask a Pharmacist host Shalena Putnam about the benefits of CoEnzymeQ10.