Lately I’ve been talking to a number of people about using Coenzyme Q10 with statin drugs for lowering cholesterol. Should YOU take Coenzyme Q10? I went to the research to find out.
Statin medications (like Zocor, Lipitor and Crestor) decrease concentrations of Coenzyme Q10 (also called CoQ10). They do this by blocking the enzyme that both makes cholesterol in the liver AND makes CoQ10. So while statins decrease cholesterol, they also deplete the body of CoQ10.
What is Coenzyme Q10? It is an enzyme cofactor, which means it is required for enzymes to work properly. It is particularly important for energy metabolism in the cell. It is fair to say that without CoQ10 the cell’s energy-producing mechanisms do not work at top efficiency.
CoQ10 also is a potent antioxidant found in every cell in the body. If CoQ10 levels are depleted, the cells may lose some of their ability to repair damage from oxidation.
After a trip to the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed research database, here are some examples of the good stuff that CoQ10 does.
1. Decreased symptoms of muscle damage when patients take statins
When you talk about Coenzyme Q10, the use people mostly think of is preventing muscle pain in patients taking statin drugs. These medications (like Crestor, Lipitor, Zocor, Mevacor and Lescol) are powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs. Unfortunately taking them also lowers the concentration of CoQ10 inside cells in the body. The loss of CoQ10 is thought to cause muscle pain, fatigue and memory problems, among other symptoms.
Several studies (the one above is just an example) showed improvement in symptoms when patients taking statins also take CoQ10. For instance, the above study showed that patients have less muscle pain, muscle weakness, muscle cramps and fatigue than those taking a placebo.
2. Improved inflammatory markers in patients with multiple sclerosis
A very interesting study showed that when multiple sclerosis patients took enormous doses (500 mg daily) of CoQ10, inflammatory markers in their bloodstreams went down. Specifically the ones that went down were tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin 6 (IL-6) and matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9).
These three compounds are inflammatory substances in the body. TNF-α induces fever and causes cells to die, and is involved in the weight loss that cancer patients experience (called cancer cachexia). IL-6 is active in the circulatory system and also stimulates activity of cells that break down bone (called osteoclasts). MMP-9 breaks down collagen in tissues and is thought to contribute to the growth of aortic aneurysms.
The ability to decrease concentrations of inflammatory markers is a very interesting ability of CoQ10 that is just beginning to be explored.
3. Improved blood sugar control in diabetics
A very exciting study published last year showed that giving diabetics 200 mg of CoQ10 per day improved their blood sugar control and also improved their cholesterol. Hemoglobin A1C improved from 8.61 to 8.0 (not an enormous difference but every little bit helps).
Total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol went down, but triglycerides and HDL cholesterol did not change. This is a mixed result, as ideally we would like triglycerides to go down too. However, we definitely don’t want HDL (good cholesterol) to go down.
4. Blocked damage to heart muscle in patients taking doxorubicin, a chemotherapy drug
One of the most powerful drugs used to treat cancer is doxorubicin. It is used to treat both adult and pediatric cancers such as leukemia and various solid tumors. One of the scariest side effects of any chemotherapy drug is the potential for damage to heart muscle. Doxorubicin can cause heart failure, arrhythmias and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). Patients have survived their cancer only to die of heart failure from their chemotherapy.
As far back as the 1970s, researchers were discovering that Coenzyme Q10 helped protect the heart against damage by doxorubicin. Heart muscle cells have a unique enzyme in their mitochondria that makes doxorubicin much more toxic and damaging. This is why doxorubicin is so harmful to the heart. CoQ10 seems to prevent this damage, protecting the heart from the effects of the chemotherapy.
So should you take Coenzyme Q10? There are a few situations in which you might consider it. Are you diabetic? Do you have concerns about inflammation in your body? Do you suffer from fatigue, muscle or joint pain, or memory problems? Do you take statin drugs?
If you are going to take CoQ10 please do your research and choose a reputable product. Make sure the company whose product you take is committed to quality testing and offers a money-back guarantee. Click here to see which product I recommend (although I bet you can guess). It’s the only one I trust with my patients, my family and my own health.