Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cholesterol Supplement: Coenzyme Q10

Humans naturally produce the vitamin-like compound known as coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10. In fact, it's found in every cell in your body.

And you get more of this powerful antioxidant through food, primarily red meat, nuts, dark green vegetables, and vegetable oils. It provides energy for every cell, particularly the heart. Without it your heart wouldn't have the wherewithal to beat. No surprise, then, that the heart contains higher concentrations of CoQ10 than any other tissue, or that people with heart disease have up to 25 percent less CoQ10 than their heart-healthy counterparts. Doctors in other countries commonly prescribe this supplement for heart disease patients.

Working together with vitamin E, CoQ10 piggybacks on LDL (low-density lipoprotein) particles as they travel throughout the body, helping to protect them from oxidation. LDL becomes much more dangerous to your arteries once it has been oxidized, the biological equivalent of rusting.

Levels of CoQ10 naturally decline as we age. But studies also find that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs like Lipitor (atorvastatin) and beta-blockers like Inderal (propranolol) deplete CoQ10 by interfering with the body's ability to make the compound. This may be one reason for the muscle weakness sometimes associated with statins.

What the research shows: While CoQ10 doesn't appear to have any effects on cholesterol levels per se, it may help prevent LDL oxidation. At least that's what one rabbit study suggests. Two groups of rabbits were fed a diet rich in trans fatty acids to raise their cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Then one group received CoQ10 in its rabbit chow. The result? That group had significantly less arterial plaque than the control group. Moreover, the plaque that was present was more stable -- that is, less likely to burst and cause a heart attack.

Who should take it: Anyone with a high LDL level and anyone taking a statin drug might consider supplementing with CoQ10 if they can afford it -- this supplement isn't cheap. CoQ10 may also be helpful for people with high blood pressure or congestive heart failure.

Recommended dose: 100 milligrams in divided doses (50 milligrams twice a day). Take it with food to enhance absorption.

Warnings and interactions: Some literature suggests CoQ10 may interact with blood-thinners such as Coumadin.

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