We explored the need for CoQ10 supplements in the article “Coenzyme Q10: Ubiquinol, Ubiquinone, Do You Need It?” Here we dig deeper to understand why more doctors don’t recommend them when they can support natural healing.
Tom writes, “After years of being on cholesterol medicine, having constant unexplained aches/pain and recently being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my wife is pain free. My doctor recommended taking a supplement called CoQ10, which is apparently depleted from the body when talking statins [cholesterol lowering drugs]. This has changed her life.”
Tom’s report of his wife’s experience is just one of many who find CoQ10 supplements help troubling conditions that defied usual medical treatments. He wonders why more doctors don’t recommend CoQ10 for their patients.
Tom’s right to wonder. Your body needs adequate amounts of CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10) to support proper functioning of all cell-types. Its role as a potent antioxidant helps fight free radicals and protects against oxidative stress, culprits in accelerated aging and chronic disease.
In addition, “CoQ10 levels are reported to decrease with age and to be low in patients with chronic diseases such as heart conditions, muscular dystrophies, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. Some prescription drugs may also lower CoQ10 levels,” say Mayo Clinic experts in their report, “Coenzyme Q10”.
Some need to take these supplements to support their natural healing.
So, why don’t more doctors recommend CoQ10 supplements?
Here we put on our detective hat and start investigating… We’ll start with a look at CoQ10 supplements’ studies as doctors pride themselves in relying on research to guide their decisions. Then we’ll turn to the role of money; not only in funding studies but in marketing to and educating doctors. Lastly, we’ll briefly look at the role of medical culture in this troubling question.
Here’s what experts from the University of Maryland Medical Center, The Mayo Clinic, and one of the world’s foremost CoQ10 authorities, Peter Langsjoen, MD say.
University of Maryland Medical Center
Experts at the University of Maryland Medical Center in their “Coenzyme Q10” report say that using coenzyme Q10 supplements alone or in combination with other drug therapies and nutritional supplements may help prevent and treat many chronic diseases. Here’s a sampling of CoQ10 studies included in their report:
Heart. People receiving daily CoQ10 supplements within three days of a heart attack were significantly less likely to experience subsequent heart attacks and chest pain. They were less likely to die of heart disease than those who did not receive the supplements.
Researchers routinely find low CoQ10 levels in people with congestive heart failure (CHF). CHF occurs when the heart (a large muscle) is not able to pump blood effectively causing fluid accumulation in the lungs, legs, and other areas. Several studies suggest that CoQ10 supplements help reduce this fluid accumulation. However, not all clinical studies agree.
Other studies found it helped reduce heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Breast Cancer. Studies found that CoQ10 supplements (along with conventional treatment and a nutritional regimen including other antioxidants (vitamins C, E, and selenium) and essential fatty acids may shrink tumors, reduce pain, and cause partial remission in some women.
Gum Disease. Several studies found that many people with gum disease have low levels of CoQ10 in their gums. When given CoQ10 supplements their gums healed faster.
More studies underway suggest that CoQ10 may:
- Improve immune function
- Increase sperm motility leading to enhanced fertility
- Help Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease
- Reduce damage from stroke
- Boost athletic performance
- Enhance physical activity in people with chronic fatigue
- Improve exercise tolerance
- Improve tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
- Create healthy skin (cosmetic use)
- Delay aging and increase longevity
Mayo Clinic experts say in their “Coenzyme Q10” report that CoQ10 supplements remain controversial as a treatment in many areas. Here is a summary of what they report in their analysis of studies.
Strong scientific evidence was found for using these supplements in treating people with low CoQ10 levels.
Good scientific evidence was found for using CoQ10 supplements in the treatment of high blood pressure (hypertension).
Unclear scientific evidence, meaning that there is evidence, but needs more research, was found for the use of CoQ10 supplements in treating these conditions:
- Age-related macular degeneration;
- Alzheimer’s disease;
- Heart conditions such as angina (chest pain), heart attack, mitral valve prolapse (in children), heart failure, heart protection during surgery, Anthracycline chemotherapy heart toxicity, cardiomyopathy, coronary heart disease;
- Cancer: breast and prostate;
- Chronic fatigue syndrome;
- Cocaine dependence;
- Exercise performance;
- Friedreich’s ataxia;
- Gum disease (periodontitis);
- Hypertriglyceridemia (high triglyceride levels);
- Increasing sperm count;
- Kidney failure;
- Lipid lowering (along with statin drug therapy);
- Mitochondrial diseases;
- Muscular dystrophies;
- Myelodysplastic syndrome;
- Parkinson’s disease;
- Post-surgical recovery after melanoma surgery; and
- Tinnitus (ringing of the ears).
Fair scientific evidence against (meaning it may not work) was found in the use of CoQ10 supplements for diabetes and Huntington’s disease.
Peter Langsjoen, MD
Peter Langsjoen, MD, reports in his paper, “Introduction to Coenzyme Q10,” that there is strong evidence for the use of C0Q10 supplements in the treatment of heart failure.
Dr. Langsjoen says, “The clinical experience of CoQ10 in heart failure is nothing short of dramatic, and it is reasonable that the entire field of medicine should be re-evaluated in light of this growing knowledge. We have only scratched the surface of the biomedical and clinical applications of CoQ10.”
He also notes that studies at the time of his report focus on the treatment of disease states rather than the prevention of disease. This makes it hard to make science-based recommends on whether healthy people should take these supplements.
Clearly, Coenzyme Q10 supplements will benefit from further research. The problem is that nutritional supplement studies lack the funding of big corporations that pharmaceutical and high-end technology research enjoys.
The discovery of CoQ10 was based primarily on support from the National Heart Institute of National Institutes of Health at the Institute of Enzyme Research, University of Wisconsin, according to Langsjoen.
Greater funding supports research credibility. It allows for more studies, more participants in the study, and staff to perform the study as well as to manage and interpret the data.
Doctors also may lack knowledge of study findings. Companies that manufacture nutritional supplements can’t afford the expensive pharmaceutical-type marketing campaigns that often include face-to-face education of doctors on their research findings by sales reps.
Another factor may be the culture of mainstream medicine. “Modern medicine seems to be based on an “attack strategy”, a philosophy of treatment formed in response to the discovery of antibiotics and the development of surgical/anesthetic techniques… Yet in this age, a patient may be cured of leukemia through multiple courses of chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation, only to die slowly of unrecognized thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency,” says Langsjoen.
He recommends that medical treatment include therapies that support the person’s overall health such nutritional supplements along with therapies that attack disease.
Research, physician education, marketing campaigns, and a medical culture characterized as “attack medicine” all contribute to why more doctors don’t recommend CoQ10 supplements.
Only, these factors deal with the many, not the few. Ask your doctor what she or he thinks of CoQ10 supplements (feel free to provide the articles listed in the resources section).
Then based on your unique needs, decide if CoQ10 supplements are right for you!
MayoClinic.com, “Coenzyme Q10” at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coenzyme-q10/NS_patient-coenzymeq10.
Peter Langsjoen, “Introduction to Coenzyme Q10” at http://faculty.washington.edu/ely/coenzq10.html.
University of Maryland Medical Center, “Coenzyme Q10” at http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/coenzyme-q10-000295.htm.