Spotlight on Supplements: CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10 may play a beneficial role in many conditions of the body.

You’ve undoubtedly heard about Coenzyme Q10 or saw a bottle in the supplement aisle at your local pharmacy. But what is it and what does it do? EN takes a closer look with a spotlight on this popular supplement.

Overview: Coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinone or CoQ10, is a compound that has a critical role in energy production within the cells of the body. It is synthesized in most tissues in humans, with high concentrations in the heart. In addition to your body naturally producing CoQ10, rich dietary sources include meat, fish, poultry, soybean and canola oils, nuts, and whole grains.

Evidence: CoQ10 is a non-prescription dietary supplement in the United States because of potential benefits in a variety of conditions. Supplement doses range from 30-100 milligrams per day, which are much greater than estimated dietary sources. Although oral supplementation of CoQ10 does increase blood and tissue concentrations, less than 5% of orally administered CoQ10 is thought to reach circulation. Therefore, pharmacological doses as high as 1,200-3,000 milligrams per day are taken. It is not considered an essential vitamin or mineral, as deficiency does not result in a disease state. However, some data suggest that levels of CoQ10 may be inversely related to severity of several diseases including certain heart conditions, migraines, and Parkinson’s disease. For example, the harmful effects of oxidative stress are increased in patients with heart failure and the antioxidant activity of CoQ10 may help to reduce these effects that could damage components of cardiac cells and may also help reduce blood pressure.

Safety and Side Effects: CoQ10 is generally considered safe with no significant side effects. Some individuals experience gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, heartburn, and abdominal discomfort, especially with daily doses of 200 mg or more. Side effects may be minimized if daily doses greater than 100 mg are divided into two or three doses. It should be noted that there are limited data on the use of CoQ10 in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and it is not recommended at this time.

Interactions: Individuals taking anticoagulants such as warfarin (Coumadin) should use caution with use of CoQ10 due to an increased risk of blood clotting. CoQ10 may also interact with statins, insulin, and certain cancer treatments. As with any new diet or supplement regiment, please consult with your physician before taking CoQ10.

—Bridget Cassady, PhD, RDN, LD

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