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CoQ10—A Source of Cellular Energy

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By Source: Whole Foods • • March 1, 1995

Many scientists and researchers now believe there is a new weapon in the war against old age and disease—coenzyme Q10. CoQ10, as it is more commonly referred to, exists everywhere in the body, and, sources say, is the key to the process that produces 95% of cellular energy. Now this precious enzyme is available as a supplement, and people throughout the world have begun taking CoQ10 to combat a wide range of ailments and afflictions.

"As we age, the amount of CoQ10 in the body diminishes; therefore, by supplementing the dwindling enzyme, people can correct age-related declines in the immune system, and increase energy and exercise tolerance."

To understand how CoQ10 works, it is first important to understand how enzymes function within the body. Enzymes are the protein substances found in all living things that are necessary for the building and rebuilding of tissues and cells. They are the catalysts that influence all of the body’s life systems, and have the power to induce chemical changes without being changed themselves.

According to the book Coenzyme Q10: Is It Our New Fountain of Youth? by William H. Lee, R. Ph., Ph.D., enzymes consist of at least two parts: the protein portion and the cofactor portion. The specific amino acids that compose the protein portion of the enzyme are determined by the genetic code. Either mineral ions or vitamins, or both in some instances, make up the cofactor portion of the complete enzyme. The vitamin portion is usually called the coenzyme.

Lee explains that the enzyme CoQ10 acts as a catalyst in the chain of chemical reactions that creates the energy needed by cells to stay alive and function. Cells do not use the nutrients consumed in a person’s diet for their immediate supply of energy. Rather, they prepare an energy-rich compound called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which stores energy to be released later.

Although ATP serves as the energy current for all cells, its quantity is limited—very limited. There are only about three ounces of ATP stored in the body at any one time, or enough energy to sustain strenuous activity, such as running at top speed for five to eight seconds, according to Lee.

As a result, ATP must be constantly synthesized to provide a continuous supply of energy. If this did not occur, our internal reservoir would quickly empty, leaving the body depleted of energy.

Healing Power

There have been many studies done regarding the ability of CoQ10 to treat a wide range of ailments, but it is still not accepted by the FDA. Despite the research, and the almost total lack of toxicity at the dosages prescribed, CoQ10 is only sold as a nutritional supplement in the United States to maintain health.

The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book, by Shari Liberman and Nancy Brunning, documents some of the healing characteristics of CoQ10. The authors write "Most of the research involves its ability to protect the heart." The book goes on to explain that it may protect the heart from damage due to a heart attack, as well as reduce the amount of tissue damage that occurs during open heart surgery.

Lee cites the fact that "a deficiency of CoQ10 is common among cardiac patients," adding that the heart is so metabolically active and needs such a constant supply of usable fuel for its constant contracting and pumping action, it may be unusually susceptible to the effects of CoQ10 deficiency.

Aside from the benefits to the heart, there are reports and small uncontrolled studies that suggest CoQ10 may benefit people with periodontal disease, diabetes, deafness, and impaired immunity.

Other possible medical uses for CoQ10 include the ability to lower high blood pressure in people with a CoQ10 deficiency. In a small pilot study, CoQ10 reduced the systolic and diastolic pressure in 4 of the 17 patients. Liberman and Brunning also cite an uncontrolled trial that suggests higher doses may be even more effective.

There are also extensive reports of the enzyme’s effectiveness in treating many forms of muscular dystrophy and myopathy, according to Liberman and Brunning. "CoQ10 is the only known substance that offers a safe and improved quality of life for people suffering from weakened skeletal muscles associated with muscular dystrophy and myopathy," the book states.

Fountain of Youth?

According to nutritional science, people should live to the unfathomable age of 125 or more. This is a hard concept for people living in our society to grasp, as poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and stress weaken the body’s resolve, making growing old a dreaded prospect. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, he suggests, as a "biogenic potential" for a longer, healthier life is possible for those who are willing to seize the day.

Lee says that CoQ10 has actually been shown to have direct anti-aging effects, and may play a fundamental role in decelerating the aging process in general. As we age, the amount of CoQ10 in the body diminishes; therefore, by supplementing the dwindling enzyme, Lee says that people can correct age-related declines in the immune system, and increase energy and exercise tolerance.

There are many documented reasons why taking a supplement of CoQ10 can help people live a longer, healthier life. And, supplementation is particularly beneficial, studies show, when the enzyme is low or deficient in the body.

Reprinted with permission from Whole Foods, March 1995.

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