Thousands of different dietary supplements are sold each year. Some, like multi-vitamins, purport to enhance overall health. Others are designed to target a specific organ or bodily process, thereby providing a clear benefit to the user. One such example is coenzyme Q10 (Co-Q10). Numerous clinical studies show Co-Q10 helps with a variety of conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, and Parkinson’s disease.

CO-Q WHAT?

Discovered in 1957, it was not until 1987 that scientists figured out how Co-Q10 worked. Although it is has proved to be a very important substance involved in many bodily processes, Co-Q10 serves two major purposes: making energy and acting as an antioxidant.

First, Co-Q10 acts as an enzyme, which means that it helps foster the processes involved in turning the food you eat into energy or ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Every cell in the body makes energy and therefore uses Co-Q10. Energy production is what keeps you alive. Muscles, including the heart, require Co-Q10 to function. It allows every cell in your body to be repaired or to grow new cells. If your body doesn’t have the right amount of Co-Q10, you feel tired.

Second, Co-Q10 is a potent antioxidant. Like fat-soluble vitamin E, it works to protect fatty tissues from damaging free radicals. Since, every cell in the body is surrounded by a fatty membrane, each needs Co-Q10 to protect it. Cell damage by free radicals has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and other illnesses such as cancer.

HOW MUCH CO-Q10 IS ENOUGH?

Your body contains about 1.5 to 2 g (less than 1/10 of an ounce) of Co-Q10. About half of your daily needs are ingested from foods, the other half is made by the body. Rich sources of Co-Q10 are meats and fish. Since you need fat to adequately absorb Co-Q10, meats and fish are ideal delivery foods as they both contain fat within the meaty flesh. Individuals who are vegetarians or vegans, or who follow a very low-fat diet, may not get enough Co-Q10, therefore require supplementation. Generally, we consume about 10 to 15 mg/day. Higher intakes may be required under certain conditions.

CO-Q10 AND HEART DISEASE

Individuals who take popular cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins may also want to consider taking Co-Q10 as a dietary supplement. Although statin drugs are very effective in reducing cholesterol levels, they ironically tend to reduce Co-Q10 levels and may produce such side effects as leg cramps and liver damage. Some experts have recommended Co-Q10 for all patients taking statins to help minimize these side effects.

Reduced levels of Co-Q10 mean less is reaching blood and heart tissues. Studies show supplementing with 100 mg or 200 mg/day correct these deficiencies and improve the heart’s ability to send out blood to all parts of the body. Patients who took 120 mg of Co-Q10 each day for one year shortly after suffering a heart attack, had fewer free radicals in the blood as compared to patients who did not receive the supplement. In the long term, the protective action of Co-Q10 may reduce the risk of a second heart attack. In addition, the patients taking Co-Q10 had significantly less fatigue, a common problem experienced shortly after having a heart attack, compared to those who did not take the supplement.

Patients with hypertension may also benefit from using Co-Q10. Within 10 weeks, patients who took Co-Q10 showed significant improvements in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Patients who continued taking their regular hypertension prescriptions were still able to lower their blood pressure 10 to 20 points by adding Co-Q10.

CO-Q10 AND MIGRAINE HEADACHES

Individuals who experienced migraines took 150 mg of Co-Q10 daily for three months. Sixty-three percent of the patients derived benefit. By the end of the study, the frequency of migraine attacks were reduced by half, going from about four attacks in a two-month period to about two. Migraines may develop as a result of a problem with energy regulation, and the additional Co-Q10 appears to correct some of this problem.

CO-Q10 AND PARKINSON’S DISEASE

Patients with early-stage Parkinson’s who were not taking medication to control symptoms, were randomly assigned to receive varying doses of Co-Q10 (300 to 1,200 mg per day). Using a rigorous scoring system to assess changes in disease state, the researchers showed that as the amount of Co-Q10 increased, so did the benefit to the patient. Parkinson’s disease is also related to a defect in the ability of cells to make energy, and that is why Co-Q10 may be helpful for these patients.

TwinSorb CoQ10, from Twinlab, is a patented formula that uses the “Proprietary Twinsorb Lecithin Enriched Phospholipid Transport System,” allowing for better absorption than most forms of CoQ10. In a human study, TwinSorb was compared to other oil-based and dry forms of CoQ10. It was found to be significantly more bioavailable. TwinSorb softgels also contain vitamin E, for extra antioxidant activity and cardiovascular support.

Each of these conditions—heart disease, migraines, and Parkinson’s disease—is characterized by a defect in the body’s ability to make ATP. In each case, Co-Q10 helps restore energy available to the body. And, since Co-Q10 acts as an antioxidant, it helps protect the body from free-radical damage. Though it is recommended you consult with your physician before using Co-Q10, those with heart disease, hypertension, experience migraine headaches, or have Parkinson’s disease may find that the supplement provides some benefit in the management of these conditions.