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Coenzyme Q10: Supplements, What Works

Coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinone, acts like a vitamin in the body and works as a catalyst in chemical reactions, even though it is not actually an enzyme. It is found in every cell in the body. It has also shown potential as an antioxidant, helping to protect against free radicals. Its primary function in the body is to help convert food into energy.

Studies have suggested that coenzyme Q10 might be useful in protecting against tissue damage in heart disease, deterioration of the retina, breast cancer, and other illnesses. However, there have not yet been many large, well-designed studies on coenzyme Q10.

Claims that have been made for coenzyme Q10 include that it slows aging by supporting immune functioning, prevents heart disease through its antioxidant action, and improves physical performance. No adverse effects have been reported.

  • Protection against tissue reperfusion, or restoration of blood flow, injury. Coenzyme Q10 has shown promising results in protecting against injury from reperfusion, or rapid restoration of blood flow, to tissues after the blood supply has been stopped, as in heart attack or cardiac surgery. In a 1994 clinical trial in Italy by Chello, forty coronary artery bypass surgery patients who received 150 mg of Q10 a day for seven days before the operation showed less evidence of damage and a lower incidence of ventricular arrhythmias during the recovery period. However, when used just twelve hours before surgeries, Q10 showed no positive effect. Therefore, this application will remain a "gray area" until more large-scale studies are done.

  • Congestive heart failure. Coenzyme Q10 has proven beneficial in patients with congestive heart failure. In a 1993 Italian study by Lampertico, supplementation produced improvement in a number of indicators of heart and lung function. However, the study had problems both in design and in the brevity of the treatment period. In another 1993 Italian RCT, this one by Morisco, patients using coenzyme Q10 required less hospitalization for worsening heart failure, and episodes of pulmonary edema or cardiac asthma were significantly reduced. Research in this area is still in the early stages, and it remains uncertain.

  • Muscle dystrophies. Coenzyme Q10 was shown in two successful, small double-blind trials, both by Folkers in 1995, to improve physical performance in patients with a variety of muscular dystrophies and neurogenic atrophies. In both studies, definite improvement in physical performance was found in the patients receiving coenzyme Q10. However, these were very small studies, performed by an ardent supporter of the nutrient.

  • Sports performance. There have been claims that coenzyme Q10 can improve sports performance, but the evidence has largely been negative. In a 1991 study by Braun, triathletes and cyclists were not found to perform better after taking 100 mg a day of Q10 for four to eight weeks.

  • Cancer. Coenzyme Q10's antioxidant activity has led to suggestions that it might be beneficial in the treatment of cancer. In one 1994 study by Lockwood, none of the patients in the supplemented group died, versus the predicted or expected mortality of four; none had further metastases; and six showed apparent partial remission. However, because a number of antioxidants were used, the results cannot be attributed to Q10 alone. Thus far, nothing definitive has been proven.

  • Gum disease. In a study cited by Cooper in 1996, Japanese researchers reported in 1994 that coenzyme Q10 was used successfully in adult periodontitis, both as a treatment in itself and in combination with standard nonsurgical treatment. However, in 1995, researchers disputed this success in the British Dental Journal.


In conclusion, although research on coenzyme Q10 has yielded positive findings in some areas, its most promising applications appear to be in medical situations where the supervision of a physician is required. It has not been demonstrated that coenzyme Q10 is appropriate for use as a daily nutritional supplement among healthy people.

It is preferable to get coenzyme Q10 from food sources, which include spinach, sardines, and peanuts. However, some of these foods are high in fat.



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Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, Inc.
Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, New York.

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