Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a powerful antioxidant, thought to be beneficial to heart health. It is considered a non-essential nutrient, since our bodies can synthesize it on there own. It helps the body convert food to energy, and its antioxidant ability protects us from free radical damage, similar to that of vitamin E.
It is thought that CoQ10 levels decrease with age, and are low in people with chronic diseases such as heart conditions, muscular dystrophies, Parkinson's disease, cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS.
It is clear however, that more research is needed in this area, and the use of CoQ10 remains a controversial form of treatment in many areas.
Potential heart health benefits include:
#1 Reducing blood pressure
Preliminary research suggests that CoQ10 causes a small decrease in blood pressure. Low blood levels of CoQ10 have been found in people with hypertension, but it is uncertain whether a CoQ10 "deficiency" is a cause.
#2 In addition to statin therapy
It is thought that CoQ10 may reduce some of the adverse effects associated with statin therapy for treating high blood cholesterol, including reduced heart function.
#3 Reducing angina
Preliminary small studies suggest that CoQ10 may reduce angina, and improve exercise tolerance in people suffering with angina.
However, in the ACC/AHA publication, "2002 Guideline Update for the Management of Patients with Chronic Stable Angina," coenzyme Q10 is listed as a treatment that's not useful, or effective, for patients with angina.
#4 Reducing lipids
Some studies have suggested that CoQ10 therapy may be beneficial in reducing lipids in coronary artery disease patients. However, at present we do not have enough scientific evidence to recommend for, or against, its use.
#5 Protective effects following a heart attack
Preliminary studies have suggested that CoQ10 may have protective effects in patients with acute myocardial infarct if administered within 3 days of the onset of symptoms. However, thorough research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.
In the ACC/AHA publication, "Guidelines for the Evaluation and Management of Chronic Heart Failure in the Adult," the available data was reviewed. It was concluded that until more data are available, nutritional supplements such as coenzyme Q10 cannot be recommended to treat heart failure.
Dietary sources of CoQ10
Some of the main sources of CoQ10 include:
• Meat (particularly kidney, liver, heart)
• Germs of whole grains
• Vegetable oils (canola)
• Rice bran
• Beans (soy)
• Dairy products
Most individuals can obtain sufficient amounts of CoQ10 by eating a balanced diet. CoQ10 supplements are also available in either powdered capsules, or oil-based gel capsules.
A note on the safety of CoQ10 Supplements
As I've stated before, the U.S. FDA do not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. Therefore there is no guarantee of strength, purity, or safety, and effects may vary.
If you have a confirmed medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with your doctor before starting any new therapy.
If you are currently taking anticoagulant medications, such as Warfarin, you should consult you doctor before taking CoQ10 supplements (may decrease the effectiveness of your medication).
It's clear that CoQ10 has potential to be extremely beneficial for heart health, but unfortunately at present we are still awaiting confirmation from well-designed, randomised, placebo-controlled trials to confirm this potential.
Melanie Thomassian is a professional dietitian, and author of the award winning Dietriffic.com.