Coenzyme Q10, Statins, and Heart Health

Wednesday, February 25, 2009
By: Byron J. Richards,
Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

Coenzyme Q10 is an essential cardiovascular nutrient1. Your heart has very high energy requirements and never gets to take any time off. Q10 is required for the proper production of energy at an optimal rate, around your body and specifically for your heart. If you lack Q10, you will be more tired and you will make free radicals instead of energy. If you lack Q10 within your heart it will speed up the aging process and weaken your heart. 

Q10 also operates as a direct antioxidant in cell membranes, meaning that it is highly protective to your overall circulatory system, having a direct benefit to support healthy blood pressure. It acts as an antioxidant team player, helping vitamins E and C maintain their antioxidant roles which provides additional synergistic cardiovascular protection.

It is very clear from the literature that statin cholesterol medications interfere with the natural production of Q10, which is evidenced by lower blood levels of Q102 in patients taking statins. It has been known for over a decade that statin drugs reduce Q10 levels3 as much as 25% and that 100 mg of Q104 is enough to offset a relatively low dose of statins (20 mg of Zocor.) 

Since Q10 is essential for energy production within cells, energy is reduced. This results in fatigue, makes it more difficult to exercise, and is part of the reason for muscle aches and pains in some statin-taking patients. The interference with cell energy production results in an increased production of lactic acid5, which contributes to muscle aches. In patients with muscle pain associated with statin use a double-blind study showed that supplementing 100 mg per day of Q10 reduced pain by 40%6.

There are other ways that statin medications cause muscle pain. For example, statins turn on gene signals that damage muscles in a percentage of patients, independent of Q10.

One study showed7 that the adverse side effects in fifty consecutive patients was so bad (muscle pain, fatigue, difficulty breathing, memory loss, and nerve problems) that they were all taken of statins and put on 240 mg a day of Q10 to recover. After a year the great majority of adverse side effects had been cleared up.

One of the serious side effects of statins is actual damage to the heart resulting in the condition known as cardiomyopathy8. The severe side effects of statins in people over 70 are so bad that their use cannot be justified. Indeed, there are now over 450,000 new cases of heart failure per year in this older group of Americans, and it is likely that statins are a cause of this dramatically expanding health problem.

An animal study9 helps shed light on why some people may get cardiomyopathy and others don’t. Animals lacking in friendly nitric oxide (eNOS), which manifests as high blood pressure, were more at risk of cardiovascular toxicity from statins. This is interesting because Q10 is also an antioxidant and a lack of eNOS implies that antioxidants in the circulatory system are already low.  Also, as fatigue in any individual increases then free radicals within cells increase, something that Q10 helps reduce.

Thus, if Q10 levels are driven down even further it might cause major problems. This means the worse the health a person is in, the greater the need to be sure to take Q10, especially if on a statin. The combination of high blood pressure and type II diabetes would flag an individual already seriously lacking eNOS activity. Indeed, a brand new study shows that 200 mg of Q10 per day improves circulation10 in type II diabetic patients taking statins.

On the other side of the coin, taking Q10 is helpful in restoring cellular energy production11 within your heart and around your body. It also helps reduce free radical production in your general circulation, improving the status of friendly nitric oxide to relax your vascular system – thereby supporting healthy blood pressure.

These positive influences of Q10 for cardiovascular health extend far beyond the notion of simply correcting a deficiency. It is more of an anti-aging concept for your cardiovascular system.

The fact that for those taking statins their Q10 is lowered as an adverse side effect is a very serious health issue. This is especially true for older Americans or for anyone who has a more advanced situation of poor health, such as type II diabetes and high blood pressure. 

Unfortunately, there are millions of Americans being given statins who are in this high risk health category wherein a lack of Q10 could aggravate already lacking antioxidant and energy systems, thus making their heart health worse. It is shocking that the rate of heart failure in those over the age of 65 has doubled over the past two decades in direct proportion to the increase of statin use – with over 450,000 extra cases of heart failure per year. 

This new finding on heart failure was reported for the very first time at last fall’s yearly meeting of the American Heart Association. It received very little press, while the media was instead fed another round of faulty vitamin E data – an ongoing attempt by the AHA to get consumers to stop taking vitamins and just take drugs.

The facts paint a different picture. Nutrients like Q10 can be very helpful to heart failure patients. In patients with chronic heart failure12 300 mg of Q10 per day was able to strengthen the heart over a 4 week period, as did exercise. Q10 levels in the blood were elevated four times higher from the supplements, compared to the control group, and even higher when Q10 was combined with exercise (meaning exercise helps condition the use of Q10 – energy begets energy).

If you are taking a statin it is prudent to consume a dose of Q10 ranging from 100 mg – 300 mg a day. Higher doses would be warranted for those in poorer health.

And for anyone, keep in mind that Q10 is a top cardio-friendly nutrient that can help keep you energized, your heart happy, and your circulation flowing along in a less stressed condition.


Referenced Studies:
  1. ^ Q10 - A Valuble Cardiovascular Nutrient  Curr Neurovasc Res.  Dhanasekaran M, Ren J.
  2. ^ Statins Clearly Lower Q10 Levels  J Am Coll Cardiol.   Marcoff L, Thompson PD.
  3. ^ Statins Lower Q10 Based On Dose   Mol Aspects Med.  Mortensen SA, Leth A, Agner E, Rohde M.
  4. ^ Taking Q10 During Statin Treatment Can Prevent Deficiency  Int J Clin Lab Res.  Bargossi AM, Battino M, Gaddi A, Fiorella PL, Grossi G, Barozzi G, Di Giulio R, Descovich G, Sassi S, Genova ML.
  5. ^ Statins Cause Increase in Lactic Acid Production  Br J Clin Pharmacol.  De Pinieux G, Chariot P, Ammi-Said M, Louarn F, Lejonc JL, Astier A, Jacotot B, Gherardi R. 
  6. ^ Q10 Reduces Muscle Pain in Statin Users  Am J Cardiol.  Effect of coenzyme q10 on myopathic symptoms in patients treated with statins.
  7. ^ In Patients Who Quit Statins, Q10 Helps Them Recover from Side Effects  Biofactors.  Langsjoen PH, Langsjoen JO, Langsjoen AM, Lucas LA.
  8. ^ Statins May Cause Cardiomyopathy  Mitochondrion.  Littarru GP, Langsjoen P.
  9. ^ Statins and Low Nitric Oxide Really Depletes Q10 in the Heart  Physiol Res.  Kucharská J, Gvozdjáková A, Simko F.
  10. ^ Q10 Improves Circulation in Statin-Treated Diabetics  Diabetes Care.  Hamilton SJ, Chew GT, Watts GF.
  11. ^ Q10 Helps Correct Cardio-Related Depletion of Antioxidants  QJM.   Chew GT, Watts GF.
  12. ^ Q10 Helps Heart Failure Patients  Eur Heart J.   Belardinelli R, Muçaj A, Lacalaprice F, Solenghi M, Seddaiu G, Principi F, Tiano L, Littarru GP.

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