Debates over supplementation with enzymes and antioxidants get frequent press as nutritionists and scientists work to discover the complexities of our bodies on a cellular level. Recent studies have shown that there are specific benefits to some of these substances, especially Coenzyme Q10 supplementation. The many benefits of this dietary supplement include increased heart health, anti-aging benefits, and relief from other diseases that plague us, especially as we age. It is important to understand why this enzyme is important to us, which groups are at risk for deficiencies, and the recommended supplementation dosages.
Coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10, or by the scientific name of Ubiquinone, is a naturally occurring enzyme and antioxidant needed for energy in every cell of the body. This enzyme is used by the mitochondria of all human cells to produce adenosine triphosphate, otherwise known as ATP, which is the energy source for the cell. The cellular mitochondria play a key role in cell growth, cell death, and is implicated in the aging process. Without enough CoQ10, our cells languish just as we would without proper nutrition. The organs with the highest energy output are the liver, heart, and kidneys, so these vital organs will suffer the most if levels of CoQ10 are deficient.
Normal cells go through a process of oxidation as part of the life cycle of the cell. This degradation results in the release of free radicals, which can do harm to other cells in the body after their release. Antioxidants, such as CoQ10 work to reduce the amount of circulating free radicals caused by oxidation and many scientists believe that supplementation with antioxidants will slow this damaging aging cycle.
While the body naturally produces CoQ10, levels of production decrease when we are in our twenties. It is also found in many foods in varying quantities, but it is difficult to eat enough of these foods to reach the levels needed. Foods that contain the most of this substance include beef, pork or chicken livers or heart, and soybean, grapeseed, and some olive oils. It is estimated that most Americans get no more than 3 – 6 mg per day from their diet and the recommended supplemental dose of CoQ10 is between 30 mg and 120 mg per day.
There have been multiple studies measuring levels of Coenzyme Q10 in persons with coronary disease. The heart muscle requires large amounts of energy to beat more than 100,000 times every day and patients suffering from congestive heart failure have been found to have low levels of CoQ10. When given this supplement, they have a resulting improvement in heart function and an improvement in overall heart health. Similar type studies have been done showing improvement in patients with Parkinson’s Disease, Migraine headaches, and high blood pressure. Research is currently underway to determine if these enzyme supplements have a positive effect on cancer and cancer treatment side effects.
Since CoQ10 lowers blood sugar and blood pressure, supplements should not be taken without the advice of a physician if treated for Diabetes or high blood pressure. Since the enzyme is chemically similar to vitamin K, talk to the doctor before beginning supplementation if taking medications to prevent blood clotting. Also consult a physician if taking medications for depression or Parkinson’s disease, as there is some indication that CoQ10 can potentiate the effects of the medications that also work to increase dopamine in the brain.
The widely prescribed statin drugs used to lower cholesterol are known to decrease the levels of CoQ10 required for cellular functioning and overall health. Most of these drugs are being taken by older patients fearing the threat of cardiovascular damage and sroke related to atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. While it is optimal to reduce cholesterol levels, supplementation with Coenzyme Q10 should be undertaken to prevent additional cardiac complications.
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