CoQ10: What You Need to Know

Close up shots of health supplement oil capsules
Is CoQ10 the medical miracle some claim it to be? ­

­What do beef hearts have to do with something that could potentially be used to treat cancer, AIDS, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and asthma -- and the list goes on? In 1957, Dr. Frederick Crane used the mitochondria from the cells of beef hearts to locate Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10 [source: Langsjoen]. CoQ10 is actually located within our own human mitochondria as well [source: Stocker].

CoQ10 is most present in the energy-making areas of our body, and much more present in beef hearts than our bodies. According to the Merriam-Webster's Medical Desk Dictionary, CoQ10 is a "ubiquinone of humans and most other mammals that has a side chain with ten isoprenoid units and possesses antioxidant properties." OK, unless you're a biochemist or you just have a knack for biochemistry the only part of that definition that sounded familiar is that CoQ10 has antioxidant properties. And you know that antioxidants are beneficial. Reportedly, CoQ10 has numerous benefits with few side effects, and has been suggested to treat not only the ailments listed above, but a host of other diseases as well. But how well does it really work? And if it's so great, how come you most likely haven't heard of it before?


­CoQ10 has some great promise for treating certain ailments, but for the most part, more research is needed to know conclusively whether CoQ10 supplements really work. This article will explore some of the research that has been done and what the early conclusions are on some of the many potential utilizations of CoQ10. In particular, you'll learn how CoQ10 can affect gum disease, blood pressure and your skin's health, while exploring its potential side effects. As with any supplement, no matter how minor it may seem, be sure to discuss any treatment with your doctor before beginning a CoQ10 regimen. Because there are so many potential uses, you can't be too careful when discussing how the potential side effects might affect you.

Continue reading to learn how Coenzyme Q10 works within your own body, as well as where it resides.



CoQ10 at Work in Your Body

­CoQ10, or CoenzymeQ10, already exists within your body. It is found in the mitochondria of your cells, and assists in producing adenosine triphosphate, or ATP [source: University of Maryland Medical Center]. Because it is part of the energy-making cells in your body, it exists in its most concentrated forms in tissues of the body that require the most energy, like your heart, liver and kidneys.

CoQ10 also resides in other tissues of your body as well, but don't feel like you're swimming in CoQ10. The average adult's body only houses between a half gram to one and a half grams of CoQ10 total [source: Connolly].


This small amount of CoQ10 is necessary for your body to function. Though CoQ10 has been used with the pretense of treating many ailments, many of these applications remain controversial. Supplements can simply be taken for a CoenzymeQ10 deficiency -- although even that treatment is debatable. Currently, the Mayo Clinic is undecided if it is truly helpful to take supplements for "low CoQ10" [source: Mayo Clinic].

To learn about the benefits of CoQ10, read on.



CoQ10 Benefits

­As an over-the-counter nutritional supplement, CoQ10 has been used to treat many things, from heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol to diabetes, breast cancer and gum disease. But that's not all. CoQ10 supposedly can help with immune deficiencies, increase fertility, treat Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, reduce ringing in the ears, delay aging and improve skin, and increase athleticism. That's quite a tall order. But what are CoQ10's real benefits?

At this point, there are no complete, sure bets with CoQ10. It is suspected to be beneficial in numerous applications, most notably heart-related damage, but until additional larger, longer and better-controlled studies are performed, no one can say for sure.


Currently, however, CoQ10 has shown the most definitive benefits in treating hypertension, or high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure have been shown to have less CoQ10 than normal, and CoQ10 has been shown to reduce blood pressure in early research [source: Mayo Clinic]. The treatment of hypertension is the only CoQ10 application that has received a "B" rating, meaning there is good, solid scientific evidence that this is helpful -- though of course, more research is needed to be completely confident.

Beyond that, nothing is quite as promising, though there are some glimmers of potential out there in the scientific world. CoQ10 is suspected, through numerous trials and research, that it has the potential to protect the heart from damage resulting from other maladies. For example, CoQ10 may help to protect the heart from heart-damaging side effects of a cancer drug, diabetes and heart disease, and may improve heart function [sources: National Cancer Institute, Langsjoen, Connolly].

If there's the possibility that CoQ10 might help treat something that's affecting you, it can't hurt to try it then, right? Not so fast. Read on to discover CoQ10 side effects.


CoQ10 Side Effects

­Even though CoQ10 is a supplement and occurs naturally in your body, it doesn't mean that it's side effect free. However, most CoQ10 side effects are mild. Some people may experience allergies to increased CoQ10. There have been some reports of rashes and itching.

Other side effects include a lowering of blood sugar within the body. This is particularly a concern for those with diabetes or hypoglycemia [source: Mayo Clinic]. In addition, if you're taking another medicine to regulate blood sugar levels, tell your doctor.


CoQ10 may decrease blood pressure -- which is potentially a great benefit to some, but those with low blood pressure, or those who are already on medication to regulate their blood pressures should exercise caution before embarking on a CoQ10 supplement regimen.

Be sure to inform your doctor of any medicine, prescription or otherwise, that you are taking, no matter what you're taking them for. You never know how supplements may react with other drugs, or what effect they can have on your body. In addition, those who are pregnant or nursing should not take CoQ10 as the effects have not yet been studied.

If you have periodontal issues -- gum disease -- you might find CoQ10 could help. But do you have to start a nightly ritual of eating beef hearts every evening to help? Read on to discover the link between your gums and CoQ10 supplements.


CoQ10 and Receding Gums

­If you've ever had a sensitive tooth or receding gums where the roots were beginning to become exposed, you know exactly how extraordinarily painful mouth problems can be. And if you're a chronic sufferer, you're probably ready to try just about anything to rid yourself of the pain. Gum disease can cover many problems, from swelling, redness, bleeding and pain to receding of the gums -- all of which CoQ10 is said to be able to treat. So should you begin loading up on the CoQ10 supplements?

Unfortunately, for those looking for a quick fix, the answer is "possibly." CoQ10, especially when paired with Vitamin C, may strengthen your gums [source: Cuneo]. This can be particularly beneficial for receding gums. Studies have also shown that people who have gum disease have low CoQ10 levels, leading to the conclusion that some CoQ10 supplements can help them in that case [source: University of Maryland Medical Center]. However, not enough widespread studies have been conducted yet to determine conclusively if CoQ10 supplements can help gum disease, so your best approach may be some CoQ10 treatment combined with an aggressive practical regimen of regular cleanings, thorough brushings, and routine flossing using proper techniques.


Could you have better luck trying CoQ10 to treat your blood pressure? Continue reading to see how CoQ10 supplements can assist in the treatment of hypertension.

CoQ10 and Blood Pressure

­If you have hypertension, or high blood pressure, there is some promising research that CoQ10 supplements may help your existing prescription medication work more effectively.

A study at the Institute for Biomedical Research found that for 109 patients with an existing high blood pressure diagnosis, more than half were able to stop taking between one and three of their existing blood pressure medications at an average of four and a half months after incorporating a daily dose of CoQ10 [source: Langsjoen]. It's very promising research, but it is only a single study. Still, using CoQ10 for hypertension is the only treatment of CoQ10 that the Mayo Clinic gives its "B" rating to, which means that while additional research is needed, it's one of the most promising and potentially beneficial applications [source: Mayo Clinic].


Conversely, if you have low blood pressure, make sure you don't take CoQ10, no matter what you might want to use it for. Whether you're taking it to help with receding gums or heart disease, you never know how else it will affect you -- in this case, potentially very negatively.

People spend lots of money every year on improving the health of their skin, sometimes in the range of thousands of dollars depending on acne treatments, anti-wrinkle products and other medications. Read on to see if CoQ10 could be an inexpensive alternative to your skin care regimen.


CoQ10 and Skin Health

­Are you in your 20s? If so, keep reading, but you'll need to remember this information for later, much later -- as you currently have the most CoQ10 in your body than you ever will. And it will only decrease with age. So if you're in your 30s, it's worth a pause, and if you've reached 40 and are interested in keeping your skin youthful and healthy looking, you definitely want to stop and learn about CoQ10 and skin health.

Some studies and trials have reported that CoQ10 can counteract free radicals and the damage they cause [source: Katsman]. Free radicals are molecules that have unpaired electrons, making them highly reactive. They can damage cells, particularly in this case your skin cells, causing wrinkles and making your skin appear older. The antioxidants within CoQ10 can withstand and reverse skin damage, preserving the collagen and elastin within your skin cells to make you appear younger.


More and more products on the market, particularly skin-care creams, are adding CoQ10 as an ingredient because of these properties. The idea that CoQ10 can reverse damage is probably the most alluring. However, if you're 50 and you're wondering if you will suddenly look 30 again, the answer is, "Not likely." No cream is known to produce results that dramatic, and like most of CoQ10's purported benefits and utilizations, there still need to be more studies conducted before the results are conclusive.

If you're intrigued by the potential of CoQ10 and decide to add it to your daily regimen, remember it's a good idea to consult your doctor first.

To learn more, visit the links on the following page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

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