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CoQ10's New Benefits

August 2006

By Russell Martin

Improving Blood Sugar in Diabetes Sufferers

Diabetes has now reached epidemic levels in the United States and shows no sign of abating. Doctors are overwhelmed with new cases and the horrific complications that accompany the disease. Two important clinical trials indicate that CoQ10 can help maintain optimal blood sugar control and thus avert the potentially lethal complications of this insidious disease.

An Australian study found that patients with type II diabetes who took 200 mg of CoQ10 a day over 12 weeks showed improved blood sugar control. Supplementation produced, on average, a threefold increase in CoQ10 levels in the trial subjects, while decreasing their blood pressure and hemoglobin A1C, a long-term indicator of blood sugar control. By improving blood pressure and optimizing blood sugar, CoQ10 may help prevent the dangerous metabolic complications of diabetes.8

What Is Coenzyme Q10?

CoQ10 is a powerful, fat-soluble compound that is found naturally in all forms of animal life. Biosynthesized in the membranes of cells, CoQ10 plays a vital role in the production of cellular energy.

CoQ10 was first isolated in 1957 and named “ubiquinone” in recognition of its presence in every human cell. It functions in concert with enzymes—that is, acts as a “coenzyme”—as part of essential chemical reactions in the cells. It is especially crucial for preserving the health of cells and tissues that require abundant energy, such as those of the cardiovascular and immune systems. In addition to its vital role in cellular energy production, CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant that prevents oxidative damage caused by free radicals.1

In yet another study focused on diabetes, CoQ10 helped patients to optimize their blood sugar levels while guarding against a dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. In this trial, 39 diabetic patients received 120 mg of a CoQ10 analog for 2-18 weeks. In approximately one third of the patients, blood sugar levels fell dramatically, declining by at least 30%. Additionally, more than half of the patients showed decreased levels of ketone bodies, which are breakdown products of fatty acid metabolism. Excessively high levels of ketone bodies can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition marked by excessive blood acidity that can result in a loss of consciousness.9

These encouraging study results suggest CoQ10 may prove to be an asset in helping people with diabetes to successfully manage their condition and guard against perilous complications associated with the disease.

CoQ10 May Counter Endothelial Dysfunction

CoQ10’s ability to improve heart health is the property that first attracted scientists and health-conscious adults to this vitally important nutrient. For years, scientists have known that by supporting energy production in the heart tissues, CoQ10 may aid conditions such as congestive heart failure, angina, arrhythmia, mitral valve prolapse, and high blood pressure.10 Compelling new evidence suggests that CoQ10 may fight an instigating factor in heart disease—the insidious threat known as endothelial dysfunction.

Endothelial dysfunction occurs when the blood vessels are unable to dilate in response to increased demand for blood flow. Endothelial dysfunction plays a central role in the development of cardiovascular disease, America’s number-one cause of premature death.

In an exciting study from Germany, researchers found that when men with impaired endothelial function received supplemental CoQ10, they demonstrated improved endothelial function of the brachial artery, which supplies blood to the arms and hands.11 This important finding suggests that CoQ10 supplementation may help prevent and treat endothelial dysfunction, thus protecting the cardiovascular system against an initiating cause of atherosclerosis.

An extensive eight-year clinical trial found that CoQ10 helped patients with existing cardiovascular disease to improve their condition and decrease their reliance on heart medications. After 18 months of CoQ10 supplementation, an impressive 58% improved their American Heart Association scores by one “class,” or health gradient, while 28% improved by two classes. Most importantly, nearly half of all participants demonstrated a decreased need for medications.12

Scientists and physicians agree that statin drugs commonly used to treat high cholesterol can deplete levels of CoQ10 in the body.10 Life Extension advises individuals who use statin drugs to supplement with CoQ10 to counter a detrimental nutritional deficiency.

Slowing Parkinson’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases

To date, there is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease, a neurogenerative disorder often characterized by muscle rigidity, tremor, and a diminishment or loss of physical movement. However, CoQ10 may play a role in slowing the progression of this devastating disease, as well as in preventing other neurodegenerative disorders.

At the prestigious University of California at San Diego, scientists conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial to examine CoQ10’s effects in slowing the functional decline brought on by Parkinson’s. Eighty patients with early Parkinson’s disease who did not yet require treatment for their condition were randomly assigned to receive 300 mg, 600 mg, or 1200 mg of CoQ10 daily, or a placebo. They were followed for up to 16 months or until their condition required pharmaceutical therapy.

At the end of the trial, patients who received the largest dose of CoQ10 demonstrated an impressive 44% slower rate of decline compared to the placebo group. All subjects who received CoQ10 experienced less disability than did the placebo group, and the benefits were greatest in the 1200-mg group. In addition, all patients who received CoQ10 had significantly higher blood levels of the nutrient and tolerated the supplementation without complications.13

Scientists believe that along with slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease, CoQ10 may hold promise in preventing or managing other neurological conditions related to impaired energy production and oxidative stress, such as Huntington’s disease, Friedrich’s ataxia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Alzheimer’s disease.14,15 While research in these areas is still in the preliminary stages, CoQ10’s ability to enhance energy production and quench oxidative stress may eventually help aging adults fend off a host of neurodegenerative disorders.

Synthetic vs. Natural CoQ10

CoQ10 can occur as one of two isomers, which are molecules that share the same chemical formula but have different physical arrangements in space.

Animals, fish, and humans naturally make the trans isomer of CoQ10. By contrast, the cis isomer of CoQ10 does not occur naturally in animals or humans, and can only be created in a synthetic process in the laboratory.

While the benefits of natural trans CoQ10 are well documented, scientists have not yet determined whether the cis form of CoQ10 can be utilized by the human body, or whether it confers the same protective benefits as naturally occurring trans CoQ10. Kaneka’s yeast-fermented CoQ10 provides the trans isomer, while many synthetic CoQ10 products on the market today contain the unproven cis form of CoQ10.

Potential Role in Preventing Migraine

Helping to reduce the frequency of debilitating migraine headaches is proving to be another of CoQ10’s multifaceted health benefits.

To further explore this potential application, research scientists designed an open-label trial in 2002, in which 32 patients with a history of episodic migraine were treated with 150 mg of CoQ10 daily. More than 60% of the patients experienced a 50% or greater reduction in the number of days they suffered headaches. After three months of supplementation, their migraine frequency fell by an average of 55%, a statistically significant reduction.16

In a related study conducted in 2005, Swiss researchers oversaw a randomized, controlled clinical trial to examine CoQ10’s effects on preventing migraine. In this trial of 42 patients, 47% of those who received 300 mg of CoQ10 daily experienced less than half of their normal number of monthly headaches, compared to only 14% who experienced similar results with placebo. Furthermore, treatment with CoQ10 was superior to placebo in reducing frequency of attacks, number of days with headache, and number of days with nausea.17

The Swiss team and other migraine researchers believe that by improving mitochondrial energy metabolism, CoQ10 may thus help to reduce migraine incidence.