A paper was published in 2015 without much fanfare that showed that a supplement could reduce the rate of death due to heart disease by half. However, the study got little play compared to the medical machine that’s been built to push statin cholesterol drugs. I just found it again this week because I saw it referenced on social media. The supplement is CoQ10, and it’s one that I have to admit that I’ve tried to take, but never seem to be able to get around to popping every day like I do my fish oil and curcumin. So I’d like to review the research on CoQ10 because I want to know if I should take it every day and maybe you do too.
What Is CoQ10?
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a natural enzyme produced in the body and found in the mitochondria of our cells. The mitochondria are the power supply for our cells, and CoQ10 helps generate the fuel that the mitochondria run on. CoQ10 is also a powerful antioxidant, but the natural production of CoQ10 can slow in the normal process of aging. CoQ10 can also be consumed through diet (e.g., beef liver, sardines, broccoli, and peanuts) and as a supplement.
How Is CoQ10 Supposed to Work to Help Heart Disease
So how, exactly, does CoQ10 seem to help heart disease? Research shows that the inflammatory biomarkers that increase in heart disease are lowered with CoQ10 supplementation. It’s also been shown that CoQ10 supplementation increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL)—that’s the good cholesterol—and higher levels of HDL reduce heart-disease risk. There is also some research suggesting that CoQ10 can actually lower blood pressure as well.
What Have We Covered in the Past That Concerns CoQ10?
While CoQ10 is commonly used as a supplement for heart health, there are other studies I have covered in the past showing additional benefits of the supplement. CoQ10 may help arthritis—results from a 2015 study showed a significant decrease in inflammatory markers in patients taking C0Q10, and a 2013 study showed reduced cartilage breakdown in animals fed CoQ10. CoQ10 may also help repair the damage to our mitochondria caused by statins. This link also contains a study that showed CoQ10 supplementation in mice helped the effects of aging.
Why Not Just Take Satin Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs?
Statin drugs (e.g., Crestor and Lipitor) for lowering cholesterol bring in around $20 billion a year, and it’s almost a given that physicians will automatically prescribe them to their middle-aged patients. Patients, following the advice of their physician and the fear-marketing ads on TV, are quick to obey—it’s better to be safe than sorry, right? Yes…if they were really safe.
However, statin drugs can poison the mitochondria in our stem cells, the body’s natural repairmen. Blocking the cholesterol-enzyme pathway hampers our natural CoQ10 synthesis, necessary for healthy mitochondria. We’ve seen this ourselves in our own lab: statins negatively impacting stem cells we have in culture. This has been so concerning that we have to restrict our stem cell treatment patients from taking statins. Additionally, they don’t work very well to protect patients from heart attacks, and statins have serious side effects, such as fatigue, memory issues, muscle damage, and diabetes risk.
If this isn’t enough, I have a full list of reasons at this link on why statins are really bad for you.
A Review of the Big CoQ10 Study
The 2015 study was conducted in Sweden where their socialized medical system gives them excellent data capture on things like heart attack, meaning, if someone goes to the ER with a heart attack in Sweden, it’s tracked in a record that can later be referenced against a studied population. That’s different from here in the U.S., where a mix of private insurers and hospital systems would have to be searched to create a complete record of person who eventually had a heart attack.
The study was a randomized controlled trial that was a bit smaller than the massive statin studies, in that it included 473 people. Having said that, there’s a reason statin trials are so huge, as the effects are so small that the researchers know that unless you study thousands of patients, you’ll never get to statistical significance. So while a larger group to study is always better than a smaller group, seeing an effect in a group of almost 500 patients means the effect size (i.e., in this case the ability to lower heart disease) is bigger.
The researchers found that the reduction in cardiac deaths for patients taking CoQ10 was massive at about 50%. Both sexes benefited, and more surprising, the effect lasted up to 10 years even though the studied patients stopped taking the supplement after 4 years!
The graph to the left is powerful. The blue line represents the percentage surviving of the older population who didn’t take CoQ10 versus the time in days. The line trends downward because anytime you follow an older group for about a decade, patients pass away. However, note the red line, which quickly diverges from the blue line as they both begin off to the left. These are the patients who took CoQ10. Note that as time goes on, fewer patients on CoQ10 are dying; hence, the red line stays above the blue line.
How Much CoQ10 Did They Take?
These patients were given 200mg of CoQ10 a day in divided doses twice a day (i.e. 100mg twice a day). They were also given selenium at 200 micrograms a day, once a day. So this would be the equivalent of 100mg tabs of CoQ10 with 100 micrograms of selenium per tab. Why do you need the selenium? This helps CoQ10 produce selenium containing antioxidants. Additionally, In the U.S., the pacific northwest and the east coast have selenium-poor soils (as does Sweden). So there are parts of our contry that naturally get less of this important mineral in their diet.
The upshot? I’m glad I saw this study come by my social media feed! I ordered CoQ10 with selenium off Amazon immediately. Even though I knew that this is one supplement many cardiologists have liked for years, for some reason it took digging into this well-designed randomized controlled trial to prompt me to add this stuff to my daily routine again! The fact that it may have some benefits for arthritis only adds to the reasons to take it!