Coenzyme Q10 for Heart, Kidneys & Blood Pressure
Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
In the 1990s the antioxidant coenzyme Q10 was recognized as one of the first high-powered anti-aging nutrients. Q10 is required for the final steps of energy production within cells and the lack of it with age results in cells dying faster – a fact that remains true to this day. Systems in your body that rely on high amounts of energy for optimal function, such as your heart and circulatory system, are especially helped by having an adequate supply of Q10. While Q10 is not the only nutrient involved with cardiovascular health, the lack of it as age, is a major handicap.
A recent study evaluated the Q10 levels in 1,191 patients with heart failure. Those with the lowest levels of Q101 were the oldest, had the most advanced heart failure, and had much higher rates of mortality than those with higher blood levels of Q10. In other words, low levels of Q10 are associated with feeble heart health during aging. Human studies clearly show that Q10 strengthens heart function2 and is associated with increased survival in patients with existing heart problems. The new reduced form of Q10 called ubiquinol has been shown to be easier to absorb than the more traditional form of Q10 (ubiquinone) in patients with compromised health and resulted in dramatic improvement in congestive heart failure3 in these patients (at the dose of 580 mgs per day).
In addition to directly benefiting heart function, Q10 is also very helpful to the general circulation. A major issue with most blood pressure problems is the hostility going on in the circulation compared to your body’s ability to handle it. On the hostile side of the equation are factors that generate free radical stress and inflammation4. As these stressful factors increase in the circulation then your antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients are used up. The “straw that breaks the camel’s back” rotates around the status of friendly nitric oxide (eNOS). eNOS regulates blood pressure function and determines the ability of your arteries to relax properly so blood can flow easily. As eNOS is depleted by stressors your blood pressure begins to rise. The endothelial lining of your arteries gets stressed, and this also signifies a key tipping point indicating that your LDL cholesterol is now more likely to be damaged and form plaque in your arteries. Simply taking blood pressure medication fixes nothing. You must restore the functionality of eNOS within your circulation to have regained any semblance of health. Q10 is one nutrient you want on your eNOS rejuvenation team.
It is clear that Q10 works in part by helping to get eNOS working again5, thereby helping to promote a much better antioxidant and anti-inflammatory status within the circulation, while directly assisting healthy blood pressure function. These benefits have been demonstrated in a double-blind study of patients with heart disease6 taking 100 mg of Q10 three times a day.
In another study of diabetic patients taking both blood pressure medication and statins, the addition of 200 mg of Q10 per day significantly improved the function of their arteries and blood flow. This illustrates my point that changing numbers with drugs is not the same as being healthy. “The patients in our study had endothelial dysfunction despite satisfactory control of blood pressure, glycaemia and lipids, which may represent the proportion of statin-treated patients at increased residual risk of cardiovascular disease,” wrote the researchers, led by Professor Gerald Watts from the University of Western Australia. “Our absolute improvement in [blood flow in the arm] of 1 per cent with CoQ10 supplementation may potentially translate to a 10-25 per cent reduction in residual cardiovascular risk in these patients. Impaired flow-mediated dilation is a consistent predictor of adverse cardiovascular events.”
A recent study tested 120 mg of Q10 per day7, along with vitamin C, E, and selenium, for six months in patients with multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The researchers found that this Q10-based antioxidant supplementation “Significantly increased large and small artery elasticity in patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors. This beneficial vascular effect was associated with an improvement in glucose and lipid metabolism as well as a decrease in blood pressure.”
Your kidneys are also an important organ in blood pressure regulation. Several animal studies have shown that Q10 directly helps kidney health8. The most recent study shows that the ubiquinol form of Q109 can offset the stress of salt consumption, preventing the rise in blood pressure and free radical damage that otherwise occurs. I should point out that healthy kidneys can handle a wide range of salt intake but as kidney health starts to decline, which is consistent with stressors in the circulation as described above, then excess sodium intake directly stresses the kidneys.
In 2007 Australian researchers10 did a meta-analysis of 12 studies regarding Q10 and high blood pressure. “We conclude that coenzyme Q10 has the potential in hypertensive patients to lower systolic blood pressure by up to 17 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by up to 10 mm Hg without significant side effects.” In 2009 Canadian researchers11 announced similar findings, “Treatment with coenzyme Q10 in subjects with systolic BP (SBP) > 140 mmHg or diastolic BP (DBP) > 90 mmHg resulted in mean decreases in SBP of 11 mmHg (95% CI 8, 14) and DBP of 7 mmHg (95% CI 5, 8).”
There is now sufficient human data showing that Q10 is a nutrient that supports cardiovascular health, even in people with difficult cardiovascular situations. It remains a top choice for energy production and anti-aging in general. Both forms of high quality Q10 have science showing they help cardiovascular health. The newer ubiquinol form, which is also more expensive, may be slightly better in general. The difference may become important in people with more advanced problems especially if they have digestive/absorption issues.
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