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CoQ10: Key Nutrient For Heart Health

Author: Andrew Weil, M.D.
Source: Health Link, Spring 2007, Issue 18

Dr. Andrew Weil discusses why CoQ10 is so important and how you can use it most effectively.

Q: What is coenzyme Q10, and what functions does it perform in the body?

A: Coenzyme Q10 is a relatively recently discovered nutrient; it was first isolated in 1957. More widely known as CoQ10, it is a natural antioxidant made by the body, and occurs in small amounts in many foods. In the body, CoQ10 is primarily found in the energy-producing parts of our muscle cells and contributes to the formation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a phosphate molecule that is our bodies’ energy currency. Among its beneficial effects, CoQ10 improves the use of oxygen at the cellular level, particularly in heart muscle cells.

Q: Who should supplement with CoQ10?

A: I recommend supplemental coenzyme Q10 to anyone concerned about heart health. CoQ10 helps protect LDL (“bad”) cholesterol from oxidation, maintains healthy blood vessels, reduces the risk of plaque rupture in artery walls, and supports optimal functioning of the heart muscle. There is also some evidence that CoQ10 can help lower blood pressure. In addition, anyone who is taking statins.

Q: Can you get CoQ10 in sufficient quantity from foods?

A: Coenzyme Q10 is found in many foods, but is concentrated in organ meats, beef, soy oil, sardines, mackerel, and peanuts. It is difficult through foods alone, however, to get the amounts that have been found to have therapeutic value. It takes one pound of sardines or two pounds of beef, for example, to provide 30 mg of CoQ10. Luckily, CoQ10 is also synthesized in all tissues of healthy individuals.

Q: If we can synthesize CoQ10, why take a supplement?

A: Karl Folkers, the famous organic chemist for Merck who led the team that determined CoQ10’s chemical structure, took the position that the dominant source of CoQ10 in man is biosynthesis – and that’s bad news. Making CoQ10 in the human body is a very complicated, 17-step process, requiring at least seven vitamins and several trace elements. If any one of them is lacking – and Folkers argues that in modern human beings, this is nearly always the case – CoQ10 biosynthesis is impaired. This would mean that what we measure as average, or “normal,” levels of CoQ10 in modern humans are really sub-optimal levels, suggesting that supplements might have value for most of us.

Q: Is CoQ10 safe?

A: Coenzyme Q10 has no known toxicity or side effects.

Q: What else do you recommend CoQ10 for?

A: I often advise people with diabetes take it because they’re at greater-than-normal risk of cardiovascular disease. I also believe it maintains the health of gums.

Q: What’s the best form of supplemental CoQ10 to take?

A: The best form to use is a softgel capsule, although tablet forms can be taken with a meal that contains some fat.