Coenzyme Q10 - What has it got to do with heart health?

Author: Emily Seddon   Date Posted:17 October 2016 

How does CoQ10 help the heart?

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), also known as ubiquinone and ubidecarenone, is a nutrient that we obtain in part through our food but also via synthesis in the liver. It’s touted with numerous uses in the human body, including supporting antioxidant activity and the production of energy, but what has this got to do with heart health?

Cellular Energy:

CoQ10 plays a key role in the pathway that supplies our cells with energy – cellular respiration. Basically, cellular respiration takes place in cell mitochondria to convert energy stored in macronutrients to ATP, the universal energy donor in cells.

Because of this, CoQ10 is found in almost every cell in the body.

Cell tissues that have a high energy demand, like the heart and skeletal muscles, contain high levels of mitochondria within their cells, and are therefore extremely reliant on sufficient tissue levels of CoQ10 for their normal functioning. The heart and skeletal muscles generally contain between 50 and 65% of total CoQ10 within the human body. These are the areas that are most susceptible to changes from a deficiency of CoQ10 as well.

A deficient state:

The body’s capacity to produce CoQ10 declines with age. We reach our optimal production during our 20s, with a continual decline as we get older. And although CoQ10 is made naturally by the liver and is also contained in some foods, it is possible to become deficient in the nutrient.

Low levels may be caused by an existing health condition, low dietary intake, high CoQ10 demand on the body, intense exercise and even some medications. Symptoms of deficiency include fatigue and muscle pains.

Antioxidant protection:

Free radicals are a natural by-product of cellular respiration. Due to the increased rate of respiration in cardiac tissue, it is exposed to higher levels of free radicals than other cells. CoQ10 is an important lipid-soluble antioxidant that can help protect cell membranes from free radical damage. Antioxidants, including CoQ10, have the ability to reduce or help prevent some of the damage that free radicals may cause.

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CoQ10 shares a common pathway with cholesterol and due to its antioxidant properties has been shown to beneficially inhibit the oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Sometimes referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol is the form of cholesterol that’s associated with an increased risk to cardiac health. Once oxidised, LDL-cholesterol may have an increased tendency to stick to the walls of arteries. It’s important to keep arteries healthy and flexible so that blood can flow through them easily.

So, by helping to protect LDL-cholesterol from oxidation, CoQ10 plays a valuable role in keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy.

Food for the heart:

CoQ10 has numerous pathways through which it can benefit heart health, which apply equally to CoQ10 made within the body or obtained via food or supplements. However Coq10 is found in small amounts in meat, poultry, and fish. Other sources include soybean, nuts, fruit, vegetables, eggs, and dairy products. Endogenous liver production, along with the small dietary intake of CoQ10, may be enough to maintain healthy levels in healthy individuals, however some people may need to consider supplementation to keep their CoQ10 status within a sufficient range.

Do not take CoQ10 while on warfarin therapy without seeking medical advice. CoQ10 supplements can interact with some medications.

It is always advised to speak with your health practitioner before beginning supplementation of CoQ10.

Written by Emily Seddon
Emily Seddon

Emily (BHSc Naturopathy) is a qualified naturopath with a love of science. Growing up with a hippy mum and dad, Emily grew used to thinking outside the box for her own health. She has since completed a degree in Health Science, majoring in Naturopathy, combining that passion for healthy living with scientific and traditional evidence to help others to live happy and healthy lives.

She loves using herbal and nutritional medicine to treat ailments and lives by the philosophy of “there is no such thing as too much tea.

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