If you have ever scanned the vitamin aisle in a drug or health food store you have probably come across bottles of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), and you may have heard that it could be a useful supplemental therapy in blood glucose control and cardiac disease.
So what is CoQ10, and can it really help to control diabetes?
Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like element that is involved in energy production in the body. It helps produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the metabolic equivalent of gasoline for our cells.
It is also a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants have the potential to repair damage to cell membranes caused by free radicals (highly reactive oxygen-containing molecules) that are produced during energy synthesis. Some of the cell damage of cardiac disease is due to free radicals.
Our bodies can manufacture this helper-vitamin to a limited extent, and we can also obtain small amounts from seafood and organ meats.
Although found in all cells, CoQ10 is distributed heavily in the heart, liver, kidney and pancreas (which is the organ containing the insulin producing beta cells.)
Levels of CoQ10 tend to decrease with age and in certain disease such as AIDS, congestive heart failure, Parkinson’s, neuromuscular disorders, and diabetes.
Because of its relationship to energy metabolism and the finding that people with diabetes generally have depressed levels, some researchers have postulated that supplementing the diet may improvement blood glucose control.
Unfortunately there isn’t sufficient evidence supporting the use of CoQ10 as a hypoglycemic agent. There have been a few small studies which have found a reduction of glucose levels, but other studies have found no effect from the supplement. The evidence of benefit for lowering cholesterol is not firmly established at this time, either.
But, there is also growing evidence that CoQ10 may have a role in treating high blood pressure. Several small studies have reported reductions in blood pressure of up to 17mg/hg when taking CoQ10 along with anti-hypertensive medication. Since many people with diabetes have high blood pressure this may be an area of research to watch.
These blood pressure reductions were seen in patients using 120-200mg twice per day.
But before you self-prescribe, talk with your health care provider. Because CoQ10 can interact with cardiac and blood pressure medication, it is important that your physician knows if and how much you are taking.