Q. I read recently that coenzyme Q10 might help prevent Parkinson’s disease. But isn’t it a treatment for heart disease?
A. Yes, but there has been research on lots of conditions testing the effectiveness of coenzyme Q10 (aka CoQ10 or simply CoQ), an antioxidant found naturally in most tissues of the body. CoQ, also known as ubiquinone, helps cells produce energy, particularly in the heart. CoQ supplements are promoted for treating heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, AIDS, even to get rid of wrinkles.
Blood levels of CoQ drop with age and in people with heart disease and some types of cancer. Research shows CoQ can stimulate the immune system and protect the heart from damage caused by some chemotherapy drugs.
Parkinson’s Disease. This latest link comes from the University of California in San Diego. Researchers gave 80 adults with early-stage disease 300, 600 or 1,200 milligrams of CoQ plus 1,200 International Units of vitamin E a day. Those receiving the most CoQ showed the least disease progression over 16 months.
Heart Health. Animal studies have found that supplementing with CoQ10 helps protect against oxidative stress on the heart. Though human studies have shown positive results, they haven’t been well controlled. The strongest evidence for CoQ appears to be for the treatment of congestive heart failure.
Migraines. Research from the Cleveland Headache Center has found that among 31 migraine patients taking 150 milligrams of CoQ10 a day, 61% cut the number of migraine days by more than half. A recent well-controlled Swiss study with 100 milligrams of CoQ three times a day reported similar findings. In both studies, the beneficial effect was pronounced only after two to three months.
Cancer. There have been several reports of improvements and remission in patients taking CoQ10, but no well-controlled studies. Of worry are studies suggesting that CoQ could interfere with the effectiveness of some cancer treatments.
EN’s Bottom Line. Though CoQ supplements show promise, it’s not a supplement EN yet recommends. The only exception might be for congestive heart failure; discuss this with your doctor. Certainly, we do not recommend it if you are undergoing treatment for cancer, as CoQ may interfere with its effectiveness, or if you have diabetes, as there is evidence it may reduce insulin requirements.