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Coenzyme Q10: The Body’s Spark Plug

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Many of us know very little about the goings on inside our cars – we turn the key and the engine starts, right? Are you aware that while there are many important aspects to having a smooth running engine, a primary condition to having your car start when you turn the key is having good clean spark plugs? Just as a car can’t run without an initial spark, without adequate ‘spark’ the human body just can’t get going either. When we are running short of important ingredients our body gets sluggish and is hard to get going.

Well if they are so important, I have a question to ask: When was the last time you looked after the spark plugs in your body? Where are these ‘spark plugs’ you may be asking.

 “Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) could be considered the spark plug of life due to its key role in energy production.”

According to a NZ research based company “Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) could be considered the spark plug of life due to its key role in energy production.” How about that! Dr. Karl Folkers (1906 – 1997) left a legacy of over 66 years of outstanding research in organic and biological chemistry. He believed that a 25% deficiency in the body’s CoQ10 levels is enough to cause illness, while a deficiency of 75% or more can lead to death.  Although coenzyme Q10 is normally produced by the human body, medical institutes such as the Mayo Clinic recommend increasing the dietary intake of CoQ10 (depending on the cause of the CoQ10 deficiency), along with supplementation of it and the other vitamins and minerals needed to produce or utilize CoQ10.

Bruce Ames, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of California, Berkeley, also presents a hypothesis that implies micronutrient deficiency may eventually deteriorate the quality of whole human cell health. A portion of Professor Ames’ abstract reads as follows:

Inadequate dietary intakes of vitamins and minerals are widespread, most likely due to excessive consumption of energy-rich, micronutrient-poor, refined food. Inadequate intakes may result in chronic metabolic disruption, including mitochondrial decay. Deficiencies in many micronutrients cause DNA damage, such as chromosome breaks, in cultured human cells or in vivo. Some of these deficiencies also cause mitochondrial decay with oxidant leakage and cellular aging and are associated with late onset diseases such as cancer.

The Role of CoQ10 in ATP Production in the Mitochondria

Every day the 100 trillion or so cells in your body work hard to multiply themselves, digest nutrients and remove wastes, as well as ensure that you wake up, get to work, make it through your day and get back into bed each night. To successfully perform all of these tasks, your cells have to have an adequate supply of energy in the form of ATP. In order to understand how CoQ10 helps produce energy, you first need to know a little about a part of cells called mitochondria.

What is the mitochondria, you may well ask.

Imagine that inside each of your cells are tiny power companies that produce 95% of the total energy found in your body. However, instead of burning coal or using water to produce electricity, the mitochondria take the carbohydrates found in the food you eat and turn them into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the fuel on which your body runs.So it’s not surprising that the mitochondria is considered to be the powerhouse of the cell. It plays a critical role in your cellular function, so optimising both it’s function and protecting it from breakdown makes plain good sense.

Frank Comstock in “Antiaging 101” says the mitochondria, requires a variety of enzymes as well as specific nutrients to function well. The mitochondria manufactures of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the component that produces the power that cells need to divide, move, contract, help us convert food into energy and perform all their other functions is dependent on enzymes and co-enzymes. Coenzyme Q10 is one of many essential components to a happy and healthy mitochondria. CoQ10 is in almost every cell in the body and drive all body processes. Along with a host of other nutrients these substances protect and preserve mitochondrial function as well as protecting the cells against free radical damage. CoQ10 is a very important natural antioxidant made by the body and as well as being part of every cell of the body, and it is found in most foods.

CoQ10 is an important part of the inner membranes of the mitochondria where the actual production of ATP occurs.(2) Here electrons negatively charged particles in atoms) are passed around in what is known as the electron transport chain. CoQ10′s job is to collect and transfer these electrons along the chain, which helps power the production of ATP.(2) After that, whenever the cell needs energy it can break the chemical bonds that hold together the ATP molecule and release the energy equivalent of about 7,000 calories – more than twice the amount the average person consumes in an entire day. However, the body only keeps enough ATP on hand to sustain vigorous activity (like running) for 5 to 8 minutes. As a result, ATP is constantly being produced by the mitochondria, which requires a ready supply of CoQ10.

This is why so much CoQ10 is found in the muscles, brain, heart, kidney and liver – because they are the body’s biggest energy consumers.(3) These organs are constantly working hard, creating a huge demand for energy and consequently, vast amounts of CoQ10 to create it. Without sufficient amounts of CoQ10 in your body, your cells cannot produce ATP efficiently and serious disease or even death can result. But to be effective it cannot be looked at in isolation. No supplement can, nor should, take priority over the consumption of a healthy diet.

Coenzyme Q10 Deficiency

Co-enzyme Q10 deficiency may occur in people for a variety of reasons, but especially in those with: a generally poor diet or not enough dietary CoQ10 intake (particularly in vegetarians); impaired CoQ10 biosynthesis; severe metabolic or mitochondrial disorders; a genetic or acquired defect. It can also be due to an increased physical need depending on body function or when more than normal amounts of CoQ10 is being used up by the body (usually resulting from metabolic or functional issues).

Scientists believe excess free radicals may contribute to a reduction of CoQ10 and the ageing process, as well as to a number of significant health problems, including heart disease and cancer. Because CoQ10 is so essential for the proper functioning of every cell in the body, it’s not surprising that researchers have found that a CoQ10 deficiency and the resulting cellular energy shortage can lead to reduced cell function and an even wider range of potentially fatal illnesses.

Conditions in which low levels of CoQ10 have been found to play an important role include:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart Disease
  • Male infertility
  • Migraines
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Post-myocardial infarction (known as heart attack)

Supplementation of COQ10 is highly recommended for anyone with these issues, but particularly for heart attack victims and people suffering from fibromyalgia. Several diseases specifically associated with low COQ10 levels, include fibromyalgia and the aftermath of a heart attack, known as post-myocardial infarction. Because of this correlation, researchers are starting to use CoQ10 supplements to boost cellular energy production and effectively treat many of these diseases.

Individuals who have suffered from heart attack/s (myocardial infarction) before, need CoQ10 supplements for restoring proper heart functioning. CoQ10 assists in the repair of heart muscle because it increases energy production. Statin drugs like Crestor, Lipitor, and Zocor work by inhibiting the enzyme that the liver needs to manufacture cholesterol. Unfortunately, they also block the manufacture of other substances necessary for body functions, including CoQ10.

This could possibly explain these drugs’ most commonly reported side effects of fatigue and muscle pain. Dr Murray reported that the large ENDOTACT study published in the International Journal of Cardiology in 2005, showed that statin therapy significant decreased CoQ10 plasma levels, but that decrease could be prevented entirely by supplementing with 150 mg of CoQ10. Additionally, CoQ10 supplements significantly improved the function of the blood vessel lining—one of the key goals in the treatment and prevention of atherosclerosis.

Another 2005 study featured in Archives of Neurology also showed a slowing of functional decline in Parkinson’s patients who took CoQ10. In double-blind studies, CoQ10 supplementation has also been shown to be useful in some patients with Parkinson’s disease. All of the patients in these studies had the three primary features of Parkinson’s—tremor, stiffness, and slowed movements—and had been diagnosed with the disease within the last five years.

Preliminary clinical studies also suggest that increasing CoQ10 may:

  • Increase sperm motility, improving male fertility
  • Be used as part of the treatment for Parkinson’s disease
  • Improve exercise ability in people with angina
  • Early study shows that acetyl-L-carnitine, fatty acids, and Coenzyme Q10 may help age-related macular degeneration.
  • Preliminary small human studies suggest that CoQ10 may reduce angina and improve exercise tolerance in people with clogged heart arteries.
  • There is early data to support the use of CoQ10 in children with mitral valve prolapse.
  • CoQ10 is often recommended for patients with mitochondrial diseases, including myopathies, encephalomyopathies, and Kearns-Sayre syndrome.
  • CoQ10 may help improve function in children with maternally-inherited diabetes and deafness.
  • Early studies shows that CoQ10 may improve symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Helps prevent migraines
  • Improve immune function in people with HIV or AIDS
  • Clinical studies show that people with gum (Periodontal) disease tend to have low levels of CoQ10 in their gums

It’s recommended to take CoQ10 with a meal containing fat for best absorption.

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References:

Mayo Clinic Studies

CoenzymeQ10 the SparkPlug of Life and Longevity

Review of Co-Enzyme Q10

The Energy Spark Plugs – article from the Daily Mail

Dr Michael Murray

Antiaging 101: Course Manual A Proactive Preventative Health Care Program

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