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Could Antioxidant Supplement Cut Heart Failure Risk?


Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an essential enzyme in the body; however, patients with heart failure have lower levels than healthy persons. A new study suggests that supplements of CoQ10 should be included in standard medical treatment.

Coenzyme Q10 is produced by the body and is necessary for the basic functioning of cells. CoQ10 acts as an electron carrier in the mitochondria to produce energy. It is also an antioxidant, protecting the body from free radical damage.

Aging is one factor that seems to affect the level of CoQ10 in the body. Levels appear to decrease with age. People with certain chronic diseases are also at risk for deficiency. In addition to heart conditions (including high blood pressure), muscular dystrophies, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS may contribute to low CoQ10 levels.

Some prescription medicines may also lower levels. Statins, for example, may block CoQ10 synthesis.

In this most recent study, presented at the annual meeting of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology, researchers from Denmark, including Professor Svend Aage Mortensen, found that Coenzyme Q10 cuts mortality in half in patients with heart failure. The study, known as Q-SYMBIO, followed 420 patients with severe heart failure who were given either CoQ10 or a placebo. They were monitored for 24 months for a “major adverse cardiovascular event” or MACE, which included an unplanned hospital admission due to worsening heart failure symptoms, cardiovascular death, and urgent cardiac transplantation.

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The team found that CoQ10 improves symptoms and functional capacity of patients with heart failure. There was also the benefit of few side effects.

Prof. Mortensen wrote, "CoQ10 is the first medication to improve survival in chronic heart failure since ACE inhibitors and beta blockers more than a decade ago and should be added to standard heart failure therapy. Other heart failure medications block rather than enhance cellular processes and may have side effects. Supplementation with CoQ10, which is a natural and safe substance, corrects a deficiency in the body and blocks the vicious metabolic cycle in chronic heart failure called the energy starved heart."

CoQ10 can be found in certain foods, especially red meat, oily fish (salmon and tuna), and whole grains. Soybean and canola oil, peanuts, sesame seeds, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, eggs, and pistachios also have varying amounts of CoQ10. However, dietary sources of the enzyme are not likely enough to have a significant impact on heart failure.

Coenzyme Q10 as a dietary supplement can be purchased over the counter, however, patients should always check with the doctors first before adding the supplement to their medical regimen. The enzyme can affect how some medications work, such as coagulants. CoQ10 may also affect blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

The recommended dose for adults 19 and older (do not give to children under 18 except under the supervision of a health care provider) is 30-200 mg daily. Soft gels tend to be better absorbed than capsules or other preparations. CoQ10 is also fat-soluble, so it should be taken with a meal containing fat so the body can absorb it. Taking CoQ10 at night may also be beneficial for absorption and utilization.

Mortensen S, Kumar A, Dolliner P. The effect of coenzyme Q10 on morbidity and mortality in chronic heart failure. Results from the Q-SYMBIO study. Presented at Heart Failure Congress 2013. May 2013.

Additional Resource:
University of Maryland Medical Center