Coenzyme Q10 & Statins
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | January 21, 2003

Many people are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs such as lovastatin, simvastatin, and several others--they're all called statins for short. These medications have the ability to lower significantly total serum cholesterol, especially low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, known as LDL cholesterol or the "bad" cholesterol. Statins do that by interfering with an enzyme used in the production of cholesterol called HMG CoA reductase. The effect of lowering cholesterol may be a reduction in the risk of heart disease.

This Newsletter is not a discussion of the desirability of taking statins. If your physician prescribes it, take it--it's important that you do. But that doesn't mean you can't attempt to change your lifestyle in the hopes of eliminating the medication in the future or at least reducing the dosage. Instead, this Newsletter is about a potential effect statins have on coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) levels in the body.

In short, CoQ10 is used by the body for the production of energy and as an antioxidant. While all cells use CoQ10, one of the organs that relies most on CoQ10 for the production of energy is the heart. For a more complete explanation of CoQ10, see the Newsletter from September 2001, "Coenzyme Q10."

Several studies have demonstrated that statins reduce serum CoQ10 levels (1). The reduction in CoQ10 levels can occur in a dose-dependent manner (2)--that means that the higher the statin dose, the greater the reduction in CoQ10 levels. The effect is a decrease in energy levels and a potential decrease in antioxidant function as well. The concern is that the lower CoQ10 levels may reduce cardiac functioning. While lowering cholesterol levels is important, potentially reducing the ability of the heart to pump effectively is not a beneficial side effect.

Research has demonstrated that supplementation with CoQ10 while taking a statin will maintain CoQ10 levels in serum and blood cells (3). Just as important, supplementation with CoQ10 does not interfere with the cholesterol-lowering effect of the medication.

What does that mean for those people taking a statin drug? You should consider increasing your intake of CoQ10, but CoQ10 is not readily found in foods that people typically eat--the best sources are pork heart and mackerel! Using a dietary supplement containing CoQ10 is probably a wiser approach; the recommended daily intake is 100 mg CoQ10. Because CoQ10 is better absorbed in the presence of fat, it's important to take the supplement with a meal or with supplements of essential oils such as omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil or flaxseed oil.

If you have high cholesterol and your doctor has prescribed a statin medication, continue to take it as prescribed while you improve your lifestyle, but be sure to discuss CoQ10 supplementation with your doctor. It can make a tremendous difference in your energy level and the energy available to your heart and all other organs. You want to give your heart every advantage you can, right? CoQ10 supplementation is that important. Talk to your physician today.

References:

  1. Folkers K, et al. Lovastatin decreases coenzyme Q levels in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990. 87(22):8931-4.
  2. Mortensen SA, et al. Dose-related decrease of serum coenzyme Q10 during treatment with HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. Mol Aspects Med 1997. 18 Suppl:S137-44.
  3. Bargossi AM, et al. Exogenous CoQ10 supplementation prevents plasma ubiquinone reduction induced by HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. Mol Aspects Med 1994;15 Suppl:s187-93.
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