Energy starvation in the immune system? Immune system cells starved for energy? There is a very plausible theory that chronic heart failure is a disease caused by the energy starvation of the heart muscle cells. Lacking adequate Coenzyme Q10 – an indispensable component of the human cell respiration and oxidative phosphorylation process – the heart muscle cells produce less ATP than is needed to supply the cells with energy. (A concomitant theory holds that Coenzyme Q10, in its reduced form, also protects the heart muscle cells against oxidative damage.)
One theory to explain the process of aging is that there is an accumulation of oxidative damage through the years. Oxidative damage is the damage to cells and DNA and lipids that occurs as a result of an excess of reactive oxygen species (also called free radicals) beyond the body’s ability to neutralize the harmful free radicals. The free radical theory of aging presupposes higher free radical production and lower antioxidant protection in older adults. In accordance with this theory, the use of supplements with antioxidant effects such as Coenzyme Q10, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E, and various carotenoids and flavonoids is desirable.
Coenzyme Q10, the essential bio-nutrient, is categorized as a redox molecule. The Coenzyme Q10 molecules exist in three different forms as they take part in redox reactions in the body. It is the ability of the Coenzyme Q10 molecules to give up or take on one or two electrons that makes Coenzyme Q10 so valuable both in the process of cellular energy production and in cellular antioxidant activities.
What is a redox reaction?
Redox is short for reduction-oxidation. Redox reactions are quite common in nature. Such everyday processes as combustion (burning), corrosion (rusting), photosynthesis (converting sunlight into energy), and respiration (exchanging gases between the blood and the tissue fluids) involve redox reactions.
For as long as I have been writing this blog, I have been wondering why cardiologists are not prescribing Coenzyme Q10 for certain classes of heart disease patients. Two classes of patients come to mind immediately: chronic heart failure patients and patients taking statin medications. Let’s look at the evidence for heart failure patients. (We can talk about patients on statin medications next week.)
Coenzyme Q10 and chronic heart failure
Chronic heart failure. Heart failure. It sounds scary. It is scary. The words “heart failure” do not mean that the heart has stopped working. What heart failure means is some combination of the following conditions:
We know that Coenzyme Q10 is an essential co-factor in at least three important processes in the body: cellular energy production, cellular and lipid antioxidant defense, and regulation of endothelial cell function. We know that our adult bodies produce less Coenzyme Q10 with increasing age, and we know that most of us cannot make up the difference through the food that we eat . From the age of 40 on, we need a good Coenzyme Q10 supplement daily. I asked Dr. William Judy what is involved in getting a good Coenzyme Q10 supplement.
Last week, we looked at the question of Coenzyme Q10 supplementation for chronic heart failure patients. We know that chronic heart failure patients have abnormally reduced levels of Coenzyme Q10 in both their blood and their heart muscle tissue [Folkers 1985, Kitamura 1984]. We know that supplementation with Coenzyme Q10 can increase blood Coenzyme Q10 levels and can improve outcomes in the treatment of chronic heart failure and in coronary artery bypass surgery [Morisco 1993, Mortensen 2014, Rosenfeldt 2002].
Data from gold standard studies – randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies – indicate that daily supplementation with Coenzyme Q10 significantly reduces the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the body. Our bodies produce CRP as a by-product of the inflammation process. Consequently, increased levels of CRP in the blood indicate increased levels of inflammation.
Inflammation and increased risk of heart disease
Inflammation of our arteries is positively associated with an increased risk of heart disease and heart attack and stroke. Moreover, increased inflammation can be an indicator of other conditions such as infections and arthritis.
Prof. Franklin L. Rosenfeldt, Baker Heart Research Institute, Alfred Hospital, Monash University, Australia, is known to the readers of the articles on this website. Dr. Rosenfeldt focuses in on the role of Coenzyme Q10 in cardiovascular health and disease. He is interesting because his research has shown the efficacy of supplementation with Coenzyme Q10 in the following situations:
- before and after heart surgery
- in the adjuvant treatment of chronic heart disease
- in the adjuvant treatment of hypertension
- in the protection of the aging heart
In this article, I would like to highlight some of the research results that Professor Rosenfeldt and his team of researchers in Australia have achieved.
What about Coenzyme Q10 and energy and physical fitness, I have been wondering. I know that Coenzyme Q10 in its ubiquinone form plays a vital role in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules in the mitochondria in the cells.
The ATP molecules are the basic units of energy in the body. The ATP molecules are what provide the energy for the contraction and extension of muscles.
Q10 and ATP and muscle aches and fatigue
Even when we are rested up, we do not have enough ATP molecules to allow us to exert ourselves intensely for more than a few minutes. When we exercise very intensively (run sprints, for example) or exercise strenuously for longer periods, our muscle tissues are forced to go from aerobic energy production, i.e. from burning oxygen, to the anaerobic (non-oxygen-burning fermentation) mode of energy production.
How do we get optimal amounts of Coenzyme Q10 to produce the energy that we need? That is the question that I asked of Dr. Judy. I wanted Dr. Judy to tell me what conclusions he has arrived at based on his own CoQ10 research studies and on his reading of other CoQ10 research studies. In what follows, I have summarized many of the important points that Dr. Judy makes.
Subject: the body’s own synthesis of CoQ10
The liver, because of its rather large mass, produces relatively more Coenzyme Q10 than other organs do. In fact, Dr. Karl Folkers thought that the endogenously produced CoQ10 in the blood comes primarily from the liver. But, Dr. Judy tells me, other organs – the heart, the kidneys, the brain – certainly do also produce Coenzyme Q10. And, actually, some Coenzyme Q10 is being synthesized in practically all of the cells in the body that have healthy mitochondria. After all, every cell in the body needs energy to carry out its functions, and the energy production process requires the presence of ubiquinone Q10.