Coenzyme Q10 is found within every cell in the body for the very good reason that it’s absolutely essential for the production of energy within the cell mitochondria. But the value of coenzyme Q10 goes far beyond its role in the production of energy, vital though this is.
To give just one example: coenzyme Q10 has been widely used in Japan since 1974 as a drug for the treatment of the congestive heart failure which is a characteristic degenerative disease of old age, and for other cardiovascular problems. The heart tissue of patients with congestive heart failure characteristically shows signs of increased oxidation i.e. free radical damage, and coenzyme Q10 is widely recognised as a powerful anti-oxidant, the most important defense against free radicals.
For those not medically trained the high concentration of coenzyme Q10 within the heart might be evidence enough of its crucial importance to this vital organ, and it’s also found in high concentrations in the brain, kidney and liver, equally vital organs which demand abundant supplies of energy.
But despite conceding coenzyme Q10’s value as an excellent anti-oxidant, conventional Western medicine is still reluctant to draw the obvious conclusion and prescribe it as a treatment for congestive heart failure or other diseases.
However, coenzyme Q10 is recognised in the US as a safe and effective nutritional supplement. In fact it’s commonly described as a fat-soluble, vitamin-like substance and is even sometimes known as vitamin Q10. But this restriction of its definition to that of a supplement should not be taken as lessening its value in any way.
Coenzyme Q10 has also been shown to have positive effects in retarding the advance of Parkinson’s disease, in reducing migraine headaches, in lowering blood pressure and to be of benefit for various cardiovascular conditions, including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
The anti-oxidant properties of coenzyme Q10 are also very important in their own right, and it’s active in every cell in tackling free radicals. Being fat soluble, coenzyme Q10 also appears to move easily within the cells’ fatty tissues, such as membranes, preventing damage from the lipid peroxidation of these tissues caused by free radical attack. Coenzyme Q10 appears to be particularly effective against superoxides; these are the most damaging type of free radical because they’re released upon the metabolism of oxygen within cells, literally with every breath we take.
Worse still; superoxides react with other by-products of energy production to form hydroxyl, the most pernicious free radical of all, and to attack the mitochondria of the cells themselves. Since it is the mitochondria which ultimately produce the energy for all the body’s vital reactions, mitochondrial damage due to free radicals can only mean the production of less and less energy, and the gradual deterioration and degeneration of the entire organism. It has consequently been argued that the rate of mitochondrial damage is the key to the rate of aging itself.
And by one of life’s cruel ironies, just as the rate of free radical damage increases with advancing age, so the body’s rate of production of coenzyme Q10 decreases. Production actually appears to peak as early as around the age of 20 or thereabouts, and declines gradually thereafter, but with the rate of decline accelerating after age 40. By the age of 80, the average person is probably only producing a little over half of their peak levels. And this is just at the time when the ability to absorb other anti-oxidants from food is also declining rapidly.
The lesson appears clear: to maintain maximum youthful vigour for as long as possible it’s necessary to ensure the maximum possible supply of coenzyme Q10 throughout life.
Unfortunately, good food sources of coenzyme Q10 are hard to come by unless you’re a fan of offal, such as beef liver, or oily fish, like sardines. And even if you’re one of those who can stomach these foods, you’re unlikely to want to eat them in the kind of quantities you’d need to make a significant difference to the amount of coenzyme Q10 in your cells.
Fortunately coenzyme Q10 is readily available as a safe dietary supplement, and you’ll certainly have plenty of company if you decide to add it to your daily regime. For all the reasons given above, coenzyme Q10 products and multi-supplements including it achieved reputed sales of around $200 million in 2002.