CoQ10 means the world to your heart

"The heart has reasons that reason does not understand." - French theologian Jacques Benigne Bossuel.

It’s only recently that we have come to understand, the impact of stress on our bodies, or the physical havoc that emotional trauma can wreak. We’re still finding out what price we pay – though we know it’s a heavy one – for some of our unnatural everyday lifestyle issues like working night shifts, or spending all day doing computer work. There are aspects of our own bodies that we only vaguely understand, and that’s part of what makes us so miraculous.

The functioning of the heart is something we’re still exploring. On a purely physical level, we understand the mechanism perfectly well. We understand a lot about how lifestyle can impact on the heart. But there is still much we do not understand. It was only in 1978, for instance, that the nutrient and antioxidant Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) took its rightful place in our understanding of heart health when Peter Mitchell, a research scientist, was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on the body’s energy pathways and role of CoQ10.

What is CoQ10?

Coenzymes are nutrients upon which enzymes depend for their function. They are present in certain foods and are sometimes also synthesised in the body. CoQ10, also sometimes referred to as ubiquinone or ubidecarenone, is one of these coenzymes, and is necessary for the work of at least three mitochondrial enzymes which are the source of all the body’s energy. Specifically, CoQ10 is necessary to trigger the conversion of glucose into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), upon which all cellular functions depend.

CoQ10, works in several important ways:

  1. Energy booster. When energy production lags, and cells stop functioning optimally, energy-hungry organs like the heart also function sub-optimally. That’s why CoQ10 is considered to be a prime cardiotonic, and is highly recommended for people who live busy, demanding lives, or who perform regular high-intensity exercise. CoQ10 also supports post-exercise recovery.
  2. Antioxidant. CoQ10 is also a powerful antioxidant, protecting cell structures from free radicals, and repairing free radical damage. This is a particular benefit to strenuous exercisers, as free radical activity is sometimes generated by aerobic exercise. It regenerates vitamins C and E when they become inactive due to free radical damage.
  3. Cholesterol-fighter. CoQ10 inhibits the oxidation of bad cholesterol – LDL – which is what builds up in artery walls, and creates the problems; and it helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels in people who’re not yet experiencing cholesterol imbalances. It is particularly helpful to people on the statin class of anti-cholesterol medications as these block the key enzyme, HMG-CoA reductase which is required for making CoQ10 in your body.

Beyond this, CoQ10 is also helpful as it relieves the muscle pain sometimes caused by statins.

What happens if CoQ10 levels drop?

US cardiologist and CoQ10 expert Dr Peter Langsjoen points out that along with the heart; skeletal muscle, the brain, liver and gum tissue are also big energy consumers which “require optimal amounts of CoQ10 for optimal energy production for optimal health". If CoQ10 body levels begin to drop, therefore, so does our general health.

Finally, there is also an apparent connection between CoQ10 and migraine: in some people, it seems to reduce the frequency and duration of migraines.

Who is at risk?

As we get older, bioproduction of CoQ10 slows, so people who are middle-aged or older should look to supplementation. Also:

  • if your diet is lacking in protein, B- or C-vitamins and magnesium, since these vitamins are necessary for bioproduction of CoQ10;
  • if you are on a low-fat diet, since fats need to be present in the digestive tract in order to absorb CoQ10 from foods;
  • if you have an increased risk for heart disease or already have cardiovascular disease; or
  • if you have a chronic illness, as poor energy production in the cells can be an underlying factor of chronic illness.

Dietary sources include oily fish, organ meats such as liver, whole grains and some seeds and nuts. Supplements should be taken with a meal, preferably accompanying food containing essential fatty acids, such as fish, or along with an omega-3 supplement to enhance absorption.


Information supplied by PharmaChoice a division of Sanofi-Aventis. For more information on PharmaChoice’s HeartChoice™ products visit the PharmaChoice website.

- (Health24, September 2011)

Read more:

CoQ10 essential for heart health
16 heart-smart tips
Love your heart; make one small change

Any questions? Ask Health24's Cardiologist

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