There are surprisingly many prescription drugs that inhibit the body’s bio-synthesis of Coenzyme Q10 or inhibit the body’s absorption of Coenzyme Q10 from supplements or both. Of course, there are many drugs that inhibit the uptake of other nutrients as well, but it is difficult to think of any one supplement that is more important to us as we age.
Coenzyme Q10 is “the essential bio-nutrient” (in the words of the chemist Dr. Karl Folkers), and our bodies produce less and less of it as we get older. It is practically impossible to make up for the decreased bio-synthesis from food alone. We, all of us, need a well-formulated Coenzyme Q10 supplement.
Coenzyme Q10 is everywhere in our bodies
Coenzyme Q10 is a fat-soluble vitamin-like substance that is needed almost everywhere in our bodies. It is present in all of our cells with the exception of the red blood cells.
The names for Coenzyme Q10’s oxidized form (ubiquinone) and its reduced form (ubiquinol) derive from Coenzyme Q10’s ubiquitous nature. Consequently, low Coenzyme Q10 status and Coenzyme Q10 deficiency are found in patients with congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke, some cancers, low-energy syndromes, and general weakness of the immune system [Pelton].
- Coenzyme Q10 is critically involved in the process of the production of cellular energy [Folkers]. Just think how dependent the heart muscle cells are on the production of ATP energy.
- Coenzyme Q10 is a fat-soluble antioxidant that provides protection against the damage caused by harmful free radicals [Littarru].
- Coenzyme Q10 has been shown, in randomized controlled trials, to improve symptoms and survival in chronic heart failure patients [Mortensen], in live-at-home elderly adults [Alehagen], and in veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome [Golomb].
- Coenzyme Q10 helps to protect against the toxic side effects of prescription drugs such as Adriamycin, beta-blockers, and drugs used for psychiatric disorders [Pelton].
The bio-synthesis of Coenzyme Q10
Our bodies’ own production of Coenzyme Q10 involves a complicated 17-step process that requires the availability of several B vitamins, vitamin C, and numerous trace elements, including selenium. Given the complex nature of the bio-synthesis of Coenzyme Q10, there are many ways for the process to go wrong and for the cells to produce less than optimal amounts of Coenzyme Q10 endogenously [Pelton].
Even without the interference of nutrient depleting prescription drugs, human bio-synthesis of Coenzyme Q10 will have a pattern of continuous decrease with further ageing after the age of 20 years [Kalén]. Adequate Coenzyme Q10 status is important to good heart health [Folkers] and to graceful ageing [Alehagen].
The absorption of Coenzyme Q10
Formulation of the Coenzyme Q10 supplement is paramount to the successful absorption in the small intestine. The Coenzyme Q10 in the soft-gel capsules must be dissolved in a lipid carrier and must stay dissolved until ingestion of the supplement.
There is little if any persuasive evidence to date that the ubiquinol form of Coenzyme Q10 supplements is better absorbed than the best formulated ubiquinone Coenzyme Q10 supplements. Nor is there any persuasive evidence that the ubiquinol in supplements is actually absorbed as ubiquinol. There is evidence indicating that the ubiquinol in supplements is converted in the stomach and the small intestine to the ubiquinone form prior to absorption [Judy].
Prescriptions drugs likely to reduce Coenzyme Q10 status
Dr. Ross Pelton, editor of the naturalpharmacist.net, has compiled a useful list of prescription medications that may inhibit either the bio-synthesis of Coenzyme Q10 or the absorption of exogenous Coenzyme Q10 or both. With his permission, I am presenting an outline of his list.
Drugs that deplete Coenzyme Q10 in humans
1. Statins = cholesterol lowering drugs that may also “function as mitochondrial toxins that impair muscle function in the heart and blood vessels through the depletion of Coenzyme Q10 and ‘heme A’, and thereby (decrease) ATP generation” [Okuyama]
2. Thiazide diuretics (HCTZ) = high blood pressure medications that may inhibit the bio-synthesis of Coenzyme Q10 [Kishi 1975]
3. Hydralazine vasodilators = high blood pressure medications
4. Adrenergic agonists (clonidine, methyldopa) = agents that have adrenaline-like effects but that may inhibit the action of Coenzyme Q10 in the heart muscle cells [Kishi 1977]
5. Beta-blockers = drugs prescribed for high blood pressure, angina, and some abnormal heart rhythms … over 20 different beta-blockers are implicated in the depletion of Coenzyme Q10 [Pelton]
6. Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy drugs = both forms of medication have been shown to reduce serum Coenzyme Q10 concentrations [Palan 2005 & 2006]
7. Sulfonylurea & Biguanide medications for diabetes patients = may inhibit Coenzyme Q10 action to the extent of having a further adverse effect on insulin bio-synthesis in diabetics [Hechtman]
8. Tricyclic antidepressants = medications to restore the balance among various neurotransmitters and thus alleviate depression but also medications that can deplete the body’s levels of Coenzyme Q10 [Sinatra]
9. Major tranquilizers = calming medications that may deplete the body’s supply of Coenzyme Q10 [Pelton]
Coenzyme Q10 is a must-have supplement
As Dr. Pelton has enumerated in his Drug-induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook, there are numerous prescription drugs that can have a deleterious effect on the body’s Coenzyme Q10 concentrations.
Coenzyme Q10 is a substance that the body makes itself to provide for cellular energy production and cellular antioxidant protection. Unfortunately, our bodies produce less and less as we age, and, equally unfortunately, other medications can inhibit the production and absorption of Coenzyme Q10.
Alehagen, U., Aaseth, J., & Johansson, P. (2015). Reduced Cardiovascular Mortality 10 Years after Supplementation with Selenium and Coenzyme Q10 for Four Years: Follow-Up Results of a Prospective Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial in Elderly Citizens. Plos One, 10(12), e0141641.
Folkers, K., Vadhanavikit, S., & Mortensen, S. A. (1985). Biochemical rationale and myocardial tissue data on the effective therapy of cardiomyopathy with coenzyme Q10. Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America, 82(3), 901-904.
Golomb, B. (2014). Coenzyme Q10 and gulf war illness. Neural Computation, 26(11), 2594-651.
Hechtman, Leah. (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. London: Churchill Livingstone.
Judy, W. V., Stogsdill, W. W., Judy, D. S., & Judy, J. S. (2007). Coenzyme Q10: Facts or Fabrications? Natural Products Insider. Retrieved from http://www.zmc-usa.com/docs/CoQ10_Facts_or_Fabrications.pdf.
Kalén A, Appelkvist EL, Dallner G. Age-related changes in the lipid compositions of rat and human tissues. Lipids. 1989;24(7):579–584.
Kishi, H. (1975). Bioenergetics in clinical medicine III. Inhibition of Coenzyme Q10-enzymes by clinically used anti-hypertensive drugs. Res Commun Chem Pathol Pharmacol, 12, 3, 533-540.
Kishi, T., Watanabe, T. & Folkers, K. (1977). Bioenergetics in clinical medicine XV. Inhibition of coenzyme Q10-enzymes by clinically used adrenergic blockers of beta-receptors. Res Commun Chem Pathol Pharmacol, 17:157–164.
Littarru, G. P., Tiano, L., Belardinelli, R., & Watts, G. F. (2011). Coenzyme Q(10) , endothelial function, and cardiovascular disease. Biofactors (Oxford, England), 37(5), 366-373.
Mortensen, S. A., Rosenfeldt, F., Kumar, A., Dolliner, P., Filipiak, K. J., Pella, D., & Littarru, G. P. (2014). The effect of coenzyme Q10 on morbidity and mortality in chronic heart failure: results from Q-SYMBIO: a randomized double-blind trial. JACC. Heart Failure, 2(6), 641-649.
Okuyama, H., Langsjoen, P. H., Hamazaki, T., Ogushi, Y., Hama, R., Kobayashi, T., & Uchino, H. (2015). Statins stimulate atherosclerosis and heart failure: pharmacological mechanisms. Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, 8(2), 189-199.
Palan, P. R., Connell, K., Ramirez, E., Inegbenijie, C., Gavara, R. Y., Ouseph, J. A., & Mikhail, M. S. (2005). Effects of menopause and hormone replacement therapy on serum levels of coenzyme Q10 and other lipid-soluble antioxidants. Biofactors (Oxford, England), 25(1-4), 61-66.
Palan, P. R., Magneson, A. T., Castillo, M., Dunne, J., & Mikhail, M. S. (2006). Effects of menstrual cycle and oral contraceptive use on serum levels of lipid-soluble antioxidants. American Journal of Obstetrics And Gynecology, 194(5), e35-e38.
Pelton, R. (19990. Drug-induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook. Hudson, OH: Lexi-Comp.
Sinatra, Stephen. (2017). Medications That Deplete CoQ10 & the CoQ10 Dosage You Need. Retrieved from: https://www.drsinatra.com/medications-that-deplete-coq10-and-the-coq10-dosage-you-need
Disclaimer: The information presented in this review article is not intended as medical advice and should not be construed as such.
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