Steven R. Brown, MD, is a family physician at Banner Good Samaritan Family Medicine Residency in Phoenix
Question: What are the benefits and possible harms of Co-enzyme Q-10? I am on a cholesterol medication, should I be taking this supplement?
Co-enzyme Q-10 (CoQ10) is an important part of cellular processes in the human body. This has caused some to hypothesize that in certain conditions taking a supplement of CoQ10 might be beneficial to health. In fact, CoQ10 is one of the top-ten most used nonmineral, nonvitamin, natural products in the United States; more than 2.5 million people use this natural product annually.
CoQ10 has been studied in congestive heart failure, Parkinson’s Disease, migraine prevention, rare mitochondrial diseases, and numerous other conditions. Most studies of this supplement have been small and results are still considered inconclusive and preliminary. Patients with these conditions should speak with their physician to discuss the potential benefit of CoQ10.
I hear about CoQ10 most commonly to hlep patients who take cholesterol drugs (“statins”). In fact, in Europe, CoQ10 is often prescribed alongside cholesterol drugs; some hypothesize that CoQ10 can decrease the rate of muscle problems (“myalgias”) that are common with statin drugs. The evidence on this question is also mixed. A 2007 systematic review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of CoQ10 with statin drugs and “the routine use of CoQ10 cannot be recommended in statin-treated patients.”
Oral CoQ10 is likely to be safe for most adults. The most common side effects are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort, which occur in less than 1 percent of the people using the supplement. CoQ10 may interact with blood thinners like warfarin so patients taking this medication should probably not use CoQ10 unless advised by their physician.
As with all natural products, there is no oversight from the Food and Drug Administration so preparations of CoQ10 may be inconsistent. In fact, one recent study of Echinacea, another nonmineral, nonvitamin natural product, showed that 10 percent of preparations purchased in retail stores contained no Echinacea, and only 43 percent of standardized preparations met the quality standard described on the label. Make sure the supplement you are taking is from a reliable source.
Reviewed January 2011