CoQ10: The Healthy Heart Enzyme

CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10) is increasingly being shown by research to play an important role in human health. CoQ10 is a compound that is present in every cell of your body. For this reason, it is also known as ubiquinone because it is ubiquitous, or “present everywhere”. Given how important it is to human health, some researchers believe that CoQ10 should be reclassified as a fat-soluble (stored in fat) vitamin. Whether or not that happens, it is certainly true that CoQ10 rivals most vitamins because of its ability to maintain and improve health. In addition, just as many people today suffer from some level of vitamin deficiency (primarily due to poor diet and environmental toxins), so too are many people deficient in CoQ10, despite the fact that it is manufactured in the body. As a result, a growing number of physicians and other health experts recommend CoQ10 supplements to their patients.

How CoQ10 Works In the Body

CoQ10 works with various other enzymes (proteins that act like chemical catalysts) to support your body’s bioenergetic functions. Its primary function is to produce cellular energy. It accomplishes this task by acting as a carrier in what is known as the body’s electron transport chain. This chain is also sometimes referred to as the body’s respiraroty chain, since it uses most of the oxygen you breathe in each day to produce energy, especially in the mitochondria of the cells. Mitochondria act as your body’s energy factory at the cellular level, producing a “fuel” known as adenosine triphosphate, or ATP as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are oxidized by oxygen in the electron transport chain. Without adequate levels of CoQ10, this process cannot properly occur and ATP cannot supply all of the energy your body needs because CoQ10 literally acts as the “spark” that ignites the mitochondria’s production of energy

In addition to its important role in energy production, CoQ10 also acts as an antioxidant. In this role it is able to help the body maintain proper immune function, and also protect cells, tissues, and organs from free radical damage.

Researchers have also found that CoQ10 plays a significant role in stimulating your body’s metabolic functions. A healthy metabolism is essential for numerous processes performed by your body each day, including the efficient use of energy and the effective burning of calories. Studies have shown that CoQ10 can therefore help people to maintain healthy weight and to shed unwanted pounds.

Additional research has also shown that CoQ10 can help prevent periodontal (gum) disease, in part due to its ability to neutralize free radicals. Other research indicates that it may also help to prevent and improve a variety of other conditions, as well, including cancer, adult-onset (type II) diabetes, and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s disease. But my far, the bulk of the research conducted on CoQ10 so far shows that it plays an essential role in protecting your body’s cardiovascular system.

CoQ10 and Your Heart

The reason CoQ10 is so important for healthy heart function is because its highest concentrations in the body are found in the heart muscle. In fact, studies have shown that the heart contains ten times as much CoQ10 than any other part of the body. As a result, your heart, more than any other organ in your body, is particularly vulnerable if you are deficient in CoQ10.

This fact has been proven repeatedly by numerous scientific studies, all of which have shown that healthy cardiovascular function diminishes when the body’s stores of CoQ10 are depleted. This makes sense, given that heart’s high energy needs and dependence upon CoQ10 to be able to properly pump and supply blood to the rest of the body.

In addition to providing the heart with the energy it needs, CoQ10 also protects against heart disease due to its antioxidant properties. As an antioxidant, CoQ10 has been shown to protect LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidation, a process similar to what happens when rusting occurs. Today, an increasing number of heart specialists are recognizing that, while high LDL cholesterol levels are of themselves a risk factor for heart disease, the greater danger is not a person’s LDL cholesterol level, but oxidation of LDL cholesterol. That’s because, as LDL cholesterol is oxidized it can cause damage to the linings or walls of the arteries. When arterial damage occurs, your body seeks to prevent it from spreading by encapsulating it with a variety of substances such as collagen and blood clotting proteins, all of which combine to form soft, or vulnerable, arterial plaque. Should the protective cap that forms when vulnerable plaque builds up in the arteries in response to free radical damage burst, the blood clotting proteins and other substances contained within the protective cap can trigger a heart attack or stroke.

In addition to protecting the health of the cardiovascular system, research has also shown that supplementing with CoQ10 can be helpful in reversing a variety of heart-related health conditions, including arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), congestive heart failure, and coronary heart disease. It can also help to reverse high blood pressure. Research also shows that, as a general rule, the more deficient a person is in CoQ10, the greater the severity his or her heart condition will be. This is especially true of congestive heart failure.

Based on these findings, CoQ10 supplements are now widely recommended by physicians in Japan, Israel, and various European countries, especially Germany. Here in the United States, however, most mainstream cardiologists rarely consider CoQ10 for their patients with heart disease.

Compounding this problem is the fact that many of the same physicians routinely prescribe statin drugs as a means of lowering their patient’s high cholesterol levels. While such drugs can be effective for this purpose, they are not without potentially dangerous side effects. Ironically, one of the most common side effects of regular statin use is the depletion of the body’s supply of CoQ10. This is also true of beta-blocker drugs. Fortunately, there are no known contraindications for taking CoQ10 with statin or beta-blocker drugs, and a number of leading integrative cardiologists, such as Dr. Stephen Sinatra, now strongly advise anyone who uses such drugs to also take a daily CoQ10 supplement.

(Note: Tricyclic antidepressant drugs can also deplete the body’s supply of CoQ10, which may account for the fact, at least in part, that many people who use such drugs to treat depression find themselves more fatigued as there drug treatment goes on.)

Supplementing with CoQ10

CoQ10 is available at most health food stores in the U.S., either as a stand-alone supplement, or as an ingredient in comprehensive multivitamin products. It is extremely safe to use, although in some cases it can interfere with sleep due to its energy-boosting effects. The general recommended daily dose for CoQ10 is between 50 to 150 mg, although higher doses are sometimes advised, especially for people with pre-existing heart conditions. For best results, Dr. Sinatra recommends that physicians first measure their patients’ CoQ10 blood levels in order to more clearly know how much CoQ10 their patients need.

Caution:.As mentioned, CoQ10 supplements are safe to use with heart medications such as statins and beta-blockers. However, people who use blood thinning drugs such as Coumadin should only supplement with CoQ10 under their physician’s supervision, and have a blood test on a regular basis. Patients with serious health conditions should also check with their Health Expert before using CoQ10. 

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