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Coenzyme Q10 - Topic Overview

What is coenzyme Q10?

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a substance similar to a vitamin. It is found in every cell of the body. Your body makes CoQ10, and your cells use it to produce energy your body needs for cell growth and maintenance. It also functions as an antioxidant, which protects the body from damage caused by harmful molecules. CoQ10 is naturally present in small amounts in a wide variety of foods, but levels are particularly high in organ meats such as heart, liver, and kidney, as well as beef, soy oil, sardines, mackerel, and peanuts.

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Coenzymes help enzymes work to digest food and perform other body processes, and they help protect the heart and skeletal muscles.

CoQ10 is available in the United States as a dietary supplement. It is also known as Q10, vitamin Q10, ubiquinone, or ubidecarenone.

What is CoQ10 used for?

Many claims are made about CoQ10. It is said to help heart failure, as well as cancer, muscular dystrophy, and periodontal disease. It is also said to boost energy and speed recovery from exercise. Some people take it to help reduce the effects certain medicines can have on the heart, muscles, and other organs.

Heart failure

If you have heart failure, talk to your doctor before you take any supplement. There's no strong evidence that vitamins or other supplements can help treat heart failure. They are used along with medical heart failure treatments, not instead of treatment.

But you may still hear about CoQ10 supplements and heart failure. CoQ10 has not been shown definitely to relieve heart failure symptoms. Only some of the studies of coenzyme Q10 showed that it helps heart failure symptoms.1

Cancer

In 1961, scientists saw that people with cancer had little CoQ10 in their blood. They found low CoQ10 blood levels in people with myeloma, lymphoma, and cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, pancreas, colon, kidney, and head and neck. Some research has suggested that CoQ10 helps the immune system and may be useful as a secondary treatment for cancer.

  • CoQ10 may keep the antitumor drug doxorubicin from hurting the heart.
  • Three studies examined the use of CoQ10 along with conventional treatment for cancer. The three studies contained a total of 41 women with breast cancer. In each study, the women improved.

But the National Cancer Institute (NCI) rates the strength of the evidence for CoQ10 and cancer as weak.2

Other claims

Research does not support a helpful effect of CoQ10 in periodontal (gum) disease, muscular dystrophy, or exercise recovery.

Is CoQ10 safe?

Taking 100 mg a day or more of CoQ10 has caused mild insomnia in some people. And research has detected elevated levels of liver enzymes in people taking doses of 300 mg per day for long periods of time. Liver toxicity has not been reported.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 29, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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