By Tom Cowan, M.D.
I first heard about CoQ10 around 25 years ago when I read a study published about four women with metastatic breast cancer whose cancer disappeared after they took large doses of CoQ10 (about 1200 mg per day). At the time, the role that the mitochondria play in human disease and the role that CoQ10 plays in protecting the mitochondria were just becoming widely known.
Mitochondria are essentially independent organisms (primitive bacteria) that merged with our cells eons ago. Some have called this merger “the grand bargain of life.” That is, the mitochondria “agree” to produce the energy the human organism needs (in the form of ATP), and in return, the human cell provides the mitochondria with the antioxidants it needs to protect itself from the damage that would otherwise occur from all this energy production. Even though my understanding of the role of ATP has evolved since that time, these basic principles still hold true.
CoQ10 is the primary antioxidant the human cell provides to the mitochondria for its protection. Without this vital molecule, the level of ATP that the mitochondria produce drops, the energy that is available to that tissue decreases, and dysfunction and disease inevitably ensue. Mitochondria are most abundant in the tissues and cells of our bodies that need the most energy to function properly. These tissues are predominantly in the brain, heart and liver. These are also the tissues that synthesize and use the most CoQ10.
Also, certain exposures either create an increased need for CoQ10 by these tissues, such as pesticide or other environmental-toxin exposures, or deplete these tissues of their CoQ10. The most notorious are statin drugs. This depletion of CoQ10 is probably the predominant reason that statin use is associated with such widespread toxicity to the brain, heart and immune system. Clearly, having an adequate supply of CoQ10 to these vital tissues is crucial to our overall health and to the prevention of diseases associated with decreased function of these organs. A short list of diseases that may be associated with CoQ10 deficiency include heart failure, coronary artery disease, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, cancer, chronic fatigue and any other disease associated with the decreased energy production that accompanies aging.
After reading that report on the success of CoQ10 with certain patients with advanced cancer, I saw others try to replicate this outcome with only limited success. As is often the case with medicine and supplements, it is not so simple to go from understanding the source of an illness (i.e., the deficiency of a certain nutrient) to fixing the problem by supplying a large quantity of that nutrient. Such issues as absorption and getting the nutrient to the right place in the body need to be solved.
Through the years, as research on the crucial role of CoQ10 in protecting mitochondrial function has evolved, so, too, has the search for a way to assure that the CoQ10 we ingest actually finds its way to the mitochondria. The formulation of a product called MitoQ is an important evolution in this quest. By linking the ubiquinone molecule to a carrier fat, it has been shown that the ubiquinone is able to penetrate through the mitochondrial membrane, where it is reduced to its effective form of ubiquinol. Because this formulation more effectively delivers CoQ10 to its needed site, the effective dose has been reduced from 1200 mg a day to only 5 mg twice a day.
MitoQ should be a core nutrient in any program that is intended to protect the brain, heart or immune/detoxification functions. It can be used in conjunction with any other prescription medicine or other supplement you are taking*.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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