Your Facebook question answered: What’s your take on Coenzyme Q10 and statins?

“My husband takes Crestor, and the pharmacist told him to ask his doctor about his Coenzyme Q10 levels. I’ve looked at the University of Google (as Joe Schwarcz calls it) and the Mayo Clinic etc. don’t think it’s worth worrying about. What’s your take on statins needing nutritional supplements?”,  asks Enlightened Eater Facebook fan, Linda Searle McCarthy.

Coenzyme Q10, a.k.a. Co Q10 or ubiquinone, is an antioxidant manufactured by the body. Normally there is a sufficient amount produced but there are conditions which may deplete Co Q10 levels.  Your pharmacist is correct about their being a potential effect of the blood cholesterol lowering-medication,  statins, on Co Q10 levels. As there is little found in food,  supplements are the only way to make up for any shortfalls.

CoQ10 has certainly become a hotbed of research over the past while but many of the findings are preliminary.  Where the research seems to be more definitive is in treating some of the side effects of statins, particularly the muscle aches and pains that some people experience. Research shows that CoQ10 supplementation may decrease these particular side effects. In extreme cases, though, a condition called rhabdomyolysis  where  the statins can cause very serious  muscle damage, the use of the statins needs to be halted completely.

So if your husband is having mild muscle aches and pains, he should speak to his physician and also ask about possibly taking CoQ10.

There’s also some interesting research about CoQ10 and athletic performance in older athletes taking statins.  The American study – a small one, though – looked at statin-taking athletes, over the age of 50 years, who either took 200 mg of CoQ10 or a placebo daily. The scientists assessed  various factors  and found that there was greater muscle strength and performance in those taking the CoQ10.

While the investigation is preliminary, there’s also other exciting areas of research including:

•    A number of studies have pointed to benefits for those with congestive heart failure including a review of 13 investigations.

•    A 12-week study in subjects on statin therapy with coronary artery disease showed both enhanced antioxidant and  anti-inflammatory effects in those taking CoQ10 compared to those taking a placebo. Other research on those with heart disease came up with similar results.

•    Scientists are looking at CoQ10 as a possible beneficial component in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

•    CoQ10 may offer advantages to women who are trying to preserve their fertility as they age as it may help to conserve the health of their eggs. It may also offer perks for men as it appears to benefit sperm motility (simply put, how the sperm swims to its destination).

•    In research published earlier this year in subjects with multiple sclerosis, CoQ10 was found to improve fatigue and depression compared to those taking a placebo.

In the meantime while we await the results of further research in all these areas, the good news is that these supplements – at dosages of 50 to 100 milligrams –  do not appear to be associated with adverse effects for most people. Larger doses of CoQ10 are sometimes used in treatments such as maintaining fertility and if taken at one time,  can cause gastrointestinal upset. Taking smaller amounts through the day can be a solution.  But for some people, when taken at night, it can cause insomnia.

For  those taking blood thinners, such as warfarin, as there may be interactions, it’s best to check with a physician or pharmacist.  Another area of concern is for those undergoing radiation  for cancer. Animal research shows that CoQ10 may interfere with the treatment.  It’s yet another example of potential  supplement – cancer treatment interactions.

Lastly, CoQ10 should be consumed with food – preferably a meal with some fat  for best absorption.

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Categories: Research Roundup, Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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