Coenzyme Q10: An Often Overlooked Essential Nutrient

Most likely you've heard that that the nutrient coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is good for your heart. It is. But its health-promoting properties don't stop there. In fact, without CoQ10, your body's ability to produce and maintain energy at the cellular level would be severely impaired. As it is, many people are deficient in CoQ10, and most of them don't know it. As a result, as you'll soon learn from reading the rest of this article, they are not only at serious risk for developing heart problems, but also a variety of other serious diseases.

What Exactly Is Coenzyme Q10?

As stated in its name, CoQ10 is a coenzyme. Coenzymes, simply put, are substances that activate enzymes, which are responsible for literally thousands of functions performed by your body each and every day. In the case of CoQ10, the enzymes it activates make it essential for the cells of your body to produce energy. Because of how vital CoQ10 is, many health experts actually consider it to be a vitamin. That's because it is an essential nutrient that is need by all of your body's cells in order to sustain your life. In addition, CoQ10 is also known as ubiquinone because it is ubiquitous, meaning that it literally is present in every single one of your body's trillions of cells. And without enough CoQ10, your body is unable to function at an optimal level, setting the stage for a variety of health problems to occur, including heart disease.

How Does CoQ10 Work?

Each and every cell in your body requires energy in order to survive and properly function. CoQ10 is one of the most important nutrients for ensuring that sufficient energy is produced in your body's cells. The process of energy production takes place within the cells' mitochondria. Mitochondria act as your cells' power plants, producing energy in the form of ATP(short for adenosine triphosphate). ATP is produced by an enzyme system known as the electron transport chain. Nearly all of the oxygen that you breathe in each day is used by the electron transport chain in order to produce energy, with the foods you eat serving as the fuel for this process. As food is digested and metabolized, its various elements (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) interact with the oxygen in the electron transport chain to produce ATP.

For this process to work efficiently, CoQ10 must be present in sufficient quantities to activate the enzymes in the electron transport chain. Among CoQ10's critical functions is shuttling electrons back and forth between enzymes in the electron transport chain. This, in turn, causes ATP to be generated. Quite literally, CoQ10 provides the spark needed to run the mitochondrial energy production. If the supply of CoQ10 is limited, so too will be your body's production of energy.

In addition to its important role in energy production, CoQ10 is also an excellent antioxidant. In this capacity, because it is found in all cellular membranes, CoQ10 can efficiently protect your body's cells from free radical damage.

CoQ10 and Your Heart

Your heart has very high energy needs and depends on a constant supply of energy in order to function properly. Therefore it's not surprising that the heart has one of the highest concentrations of CoQ10 in your entire body. Research shows that ten times more CoQ10 is found in the heart than in any other area of the body, making the heart especially vulnerable to CoQ10 deficiencies. Your heart needs CoQ10 in order for it to have the energy required to pump blood throughout your body. Numerous studies have shown that, when CoQ10 levels are deficient, heart disease can result. Generally, the lower CoQ10 levels are, the worse the heart condition. This is especially true in cases of congestive heart failure.

Because of this correlation between heart function and CoQ10, it only makes sense that studies have shown that CoQ10, when taken as a supplement, is effective for preventing and reversing heart disease. For this reason, CoQ10 is widely recommended by physicians and other health practitioners in Europe, Japan, and Israel as a supplement for protecting the heart and cardiovascular system. In the United States, however, it is not as widely used, despite being recommended by leading heart specialists such as Dr. Stephen Sinatra. Fortunately, however, an increasing number of U.S. physicians are becoming aware of CoQ10 and recommending it to their patients.

Other Benefits of CoQ10

While most of the research into CoQ10 focuses its benefits for preventing and treating heart disease, additional studies are showing that this versatile nutrient can help to prevent and reverse other disease conditions, as well. Chief among these conditions are immune disorders, including cancer, and neuro-degenerative conditions, such as both Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease. Studies have shown that CoQ10 has both therapeutic and preventative benefits for these conditions. Once again, this is due to CoQ10's critical role in energy production, as well as its antioxidant properties. Additional research also suggests that CoQ10 may also be beneficial for bolstering AIDS treatments. It has even been shown to be helpful in preventing and reversing periodontal (gum) disease.

Why Supplementing With CoQ10 Is Advisable

Given the important health benefits that CoQ10 provides, it makes sense to include it as part of an overall nutritional supplement program, one that you ideally discuss with your Health Expert or other health care provider. That's because, although CoQ10 is naturally produced by your body, its production process depends on a complex interaction of a variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as the amino acid tyrosine. Unfortunately, most of us today are deficient in one or more of these nutrients, and a deficiency in one of more of them means that your body cannot manufacture CoQ10 in the amount your body needs.

While CoQ10 is found in some foods, especially seafood and organ meats such as liver, most people obtain less than 10 mg per day from the foods they eat. In addition, your body' supply of CoQ10 can easily be depleted by a variety of factors, such as aging, environmental toxins, poor diet, and other lifestyle factors. The use of certain medications, such as cholesterol-lowering drugs (particularly statins), beta-blockers, and antidepressants, can also significantly reduce CoQ10 levels, as can regular high-intensity physical activity, including exercise.

All of the above reasons explain why you may need to add a daily CoQ10 supplement to your health routine. Depending on need, dosages of CoQ10 can range from 50 to 150 mg per day to up to 350 mg or more for people suffering from serious heart problems. A number of health experts suggest that the best way to determine your dosage is to take 2 mg of CoQ10 for every kilo of body weight (a kilo is the equivalent of 2.2 pounds, which means that a men weighing 220 pounds would take 200 mg). However, before you start supplementing with CoQ10, it's best if you first consult with your Health Expert or an experienced clinical nutritionist to determine the proper dosage of CoQ10 that you need each day, since each of us has specific nutritional needs.

Note: Although the scientific literature does not indicate any contradictions for CoQ10, making it one of the safest nutrients for supplementation, many health experts do not recommend it for pregnant or nursing women. In addition, people on the drug Coumadin should only take CoQ10 under their physician's supervision.

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