Natural Healing

Exercise, statins, age deplete CoQ10, vital for heart health

By Sari Huhtala

Who knew that taking statins, cholesterol lowering drugs, can interfere with your body’s natural ability to produce a coenzyme vital for heart health? Seems a little counterintuitive, but researchers have found statins “routinely result in lower levels” of this coenzyme in the blood serum.

What’s the key coenzyme? Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, which plays a vital role in mitochondrial respiration, helping the cells produce energy, deficiencies of which can result in neurological or myopathic syndromes, according to a 2010 study – Coenzyme Q10 and Statin-Induced Mitochondrial Dysfunction – published in the medical journal Ochsner.

I actually hadn’t heard much about CoQ10 until about four years ago, while researching natural options for someone who had suffered a heart attack. Interestingly, statins were one of the many pharmaceuticals he was placed on after the heart attack. The owner of a local health food store, who was also an orthomolecular practitioner, recommended supplementing with CoQ10. Considering the published research, it made good health sense.

A 2004 study in the Archives of Neurology found CoQ10 levels were “significantly” reduced in humans after taking Atorvastatin (sold under the name Lipitor) at a dose of 80 mg for 14 to 30 days. Levels of CoQ10 decreased from 1.26 to 0.67 µg/mL at 14 days and to 0.62 µg/mL at 30 days, according to the study – Atorvastatin decreases the coenzyme Q10 level in the blood of patients at risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Statins are not the only factors affecting the body’s natural production of CoQ10. Aging may result in lower levels of CoQ10 since the body produces less as we age, and as a result, individuals over the age of 70, who are taking statins, may be at greater risk of statin-induced CoQ10 deficiency, researchers say.

Vigorous exercise may also deplete muscle levels of CoQ10, as strenuous exercise causes a boosted uptake of CoQ10 by the muscles.

A 1993 study in The Clinical Investigator – Effect of coenzyme Q10 therapy in patients with congestive heart failure: a long-term multicenter randomized study – found boosting CoQ10 “significantly” reduced the incidence of hospitalization from heart failure.

For the study, 322 patients with congestive heart failure, with a mean age of 67, were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo, or a dose of CoQ10 of 2mg/kg per day in a 1-year double-blind trial. Pulmonary edema, arrhythmias and cardiac asthma was “significantly” lower in patients who received CoQ10 as an adjunct to conventional therapy versus those in the control group receiving the placebo. After one year, 118 patients in the control group required hospitalization due to heart failure, versus 73 patients in the treatment group who received a daily dose of CoQ10.

In the 2013 study – Mitochondrial dysfunction in migraine – scientists found CoQ10 to be an effective treatment for migraines.

So how to boost CoQ10 levels naturally? Supplementation is one way, but a number of food items are rich sources of CoQ10, including fatty cold-water fish like salmon, herring and mackerel. CoQ10 is fat soluble, so it needs fat for absorption. Organ meats, the liver and heart in particular, are high in CoQ10, as well as beef. Soybeans, peanuts, pistachios, chicken and avocado are also good sources of the coenzyme, as well as some vegetables like spinach, broccoli and cauliflower, according to Critical Reviews in Food and Science Nutrition.

Sari Huhtala is the publisher and editor of Alive and Fit Magazine. She has over 25 years experience in journalism, over 15 years as a certified personal trainer and fitness specialist, as well as over 20 years as a wellness advocate.

Photo credit: ©[Lina Darjan’s Images] via Canva

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