By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
As a nutrient essential to energy production, coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10, is a VIP (very important particle) within your body. It is one of the best nutrients you can feed your heart to support overall heart health, and I cannot imagine practicing cardiology without it.
What’s so special about Coenzyme Q10? This fat-soluble, vitamin-like compound is found within all your body’s cells and helps your body (and especially your heart) make the energy it needs to function and stay healthy.
Coenzyme Q10 and Heart Health Benefits
To really understand why CoQ10 is so important, we need to take a look under the microscope… at all our individual cells.
Inside our cells are tiny organelles called mitochondria – microscopic power plants that produce all the energy molecules that our bodies run on. Those energy molecules are called ATP, or adenosine triphosphate (you can learn more about ATP in this article). Among other crucial functions, your body uses ATP to keep your heart beating. Since our hearts require an enormous amount of energy to sustain us, they contain more mitochondria than all other organs in the body.
How does CoQ10 help you make energy? Specifically, it helps your mitochondria regenerate ATP by assisting enzymes with electron transfer. In this role, CoQ10 acts as a coenzyme and is functioning in its whole form: ubiquinone.
Coenzyme 10’s power doesn’t stop here, though. It actually plays a another highly important role in your body as an antioxidant. After it helps your mitochondria with ATP regeneration, the efficient CoQ10 – in its reduced form, ubiquinol – serves as an antioxidant, protecting heart cell membranes and mitochondria from oxidative damage. Ubiquinol even travels through your bloodstream to quench free radicals and prevent oxidation of LDL in blood vessels.
Heart muscle requires an incredible amount of CoQ10 to circulate oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood through your body. In fact, tissue levels of CoQ10 are usually ten times higher in the healthy heart than any other organ of the body, even the brain! It truly is your heart’s best friend.
CoQ10 Foods and Other Sources of Coenzyme Q10
Your body makes its own supply of coenzyme Q10 from amino acids, vitamins and minerals. However, around the age of 40, the body’s production of CoQ10 begins to decline, which impacts your ability to generate ATP.
CoQ10 deficiency can be the result of age, malnutrition, or drug interference, and is associated with many heart conditions. CoenzymeQ10 levels can also drop if you’re not getting enough of the various nutrients required to synthesize it, or if you’re taking statin drugs or beta blockers. The good news is, you can build up your supply of CoQ10 by consuming coQ10-containing foods and supplements.
Good food sources of coenzyme Q10 include fish like sardines and wild Alaskan Salmon, meats, broccoli, spinach, and nuts. And although many people wouldn’t dream of eating organ meats like the heart or liver, they are some of the most concentrated food sources of CoQ10.
Coenzyme Q10 supplements can be a more reliable (not to mention palatable) way to get more of this crucial nutrient as we age. Commercial CoQ10 supplements may vary in potency. You should look for a supplement that is bioavailable enough to significantly raise CoQ10 levels in your blood. Bioavailability describes how quickly, and in what concentration, your blood absorbs substances. Water- and fat-soluble forms of CoQ10 tend to be more bioavailable than dry powder blends. Blood levels of CoQ10 provide the most accurate assessment of how much CoQ10 is being absorbed and delivered to your tissues. Researchers agree that a 2.5 µg/ml blood level of CoQ10 is optimal, while 3.5 µg/ml is the preferred amount for people with severely diseased hearts.
How Much Coenzyme Q10 Should You Take?
With my patients, I always prescribed CoQ10 as part of their treatment plans, and would also recommend it to facilitate heart health and healthy aging in the following amounts:
- 50 to 100 mg daily for otherwise healthy people between the ages of 40 and 60;
- 100 to 200 mg daily for people who take statin drugs or are over the age of 60;
- 180 – 360 mg daily for those with hypertension (high blood pressure);
- 300 – 600 mg daily for those with CHF (Start with 180 mg and work up to 300+ mg over three weeks);and
- 600 – 1,200+ mg daily for people with Parkinson’s disease and other debilitating illness such as cancer.
In addition to supporting heart health, CoQ10 supplementation can help cancer patients who receive Adriamycin, a form of chemotherapy, protect their hearts against the agent’s toxic effects. Supplementation with CoQ10 can also offset nutritional deficiencies caused by pharmaceutical drugs like beta blockers, statins, and antidepressants. Note: careful monitoring for drug interactions is suggested when blood thinners like Coumadin are in the picture.
It’s important to realize that there are no “cut-and-dry” guidelines about coenzyme Q10 dosages – what’s right for others, may not be right for you. Bottom line is that the “right” amount of coenzyme Q10 to take is the amount that helps makes YOU – the individual – feel better (remember to keep your doctor informed of the dosages of supplements you are taking).
Here are some addutional CoQ10 Facts: CoQ10 Benefits, Dosage and More.
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