Coenzyme Q10: Miracle Nutrient
Julian Whitaker, MD
A few years ago, I delivered a speech at the third conference of the International Coenzyme Q10 Association, which was held in London. This conference was attended by acclaimed researchers and clinicians from all over the world who shared their experiences and studies on this unique and beneficial element.
Coenzyme Q10: A Crucial Discovery
Coenzyme Q10 was discovered in 1957 by Fred Crane, MD, from the University of Wisconsin. A few years later, Karl Folkers, PhD, working for Merck & Co., figured out how to synthesize it. Because Merck is a drug company and therefore deals only in patented products, they weren’t interested in this natural substance. So they sold the proprietary information on its synthesis to a Japanese company that has been making the world’s supply of CoQ10 for the last 40 years or so.
In my opinion, CoQ10 ranks as one of the top three discoveries of the 20th century, for it can enhance the health of hundreds of millions of people with a wide range of ailments. This is because CoQ10 is an essential element in energy production. As levels of this crucial compound fall, the ability to produce energy is diminished and all manner of ailments develop. If CoQ10 levels are increased by oral supplementation, energy production increases, and astounding benefits result.
I believe that the discovery of CoQ10 is more important to human culture than the discovery of insulin—more people are at risk of CoQ10 deficiencies and more people can benefit from supplementing with it than with insulin. Unfortunately, its discovery came at a time when conventional medicine was dominated by the pharmaceutical industry. In this climate, even a discovery as remarkable as CoQ10 never sees the light of day.
CoQ10: Not Just for Your Heart Anymore
The enthusiastic researchers attending this conference presented paper after paper of documented and potential health benefits of CoQ10. Several of them talked about its potent antioxidant effects. CoQ10 is the most active antioxidant in the mitochondria, the powerhouses of our cells. In addition to fighting free radicals, it is also instrumental in the regeneration of vitamin E—after vitamin E has quenched a free radical, CoQ10 steps in to restore its antioxidant potential so it can go another round.
Asthma, ulcerative colitis, periodontal disease, fibromyalgia, cirrhosis of the liver, skin damage, cataracts, aging: Scientists from around the world addressed the protective or therapeutic role of CoQ10 for all of these conditions and more.
CoQ10 appears to be particularly effective in neurodegenerative diseases. Cliff Shults, MD, of the University of California, San Diego, reported that 1,200 mg of CoQ10 daily dramatically slowed the progression of Parkinson’s disease. M. Flint Beal, MD, from Cornell University, showed how CoQ10 administration slowed functional decline and increased longevity in patients with Huntington’s disease.
It also has a role in diabetes. Dr. Choon-Nam Ong from the National University of Singapore shared his findings that patients with diabetes consistently have subnormal levels of CoQ10. And Australian scientist Jonathan Hodgson showed that CoQ10 improved blood sugar control in diabetics.
New Research Boosts Heart Benefits
Dr. Hodgson also discussed CoQ10’s cardiovascular applications, which are its best-researched uses. In his clinical trial of diabetic patients who also had hypertension, supplementing with CoQ10 improved endothelial function, allowing the arteries to relax and dilate and blood pressure to fall. Other studies presented at the conference on cardiovascular disease showed the benefits of CoQ10 for congestive heart failure, recovery following heart attack, and relief of angina.
Several scientists, including Texas cardiologist Peter Langsjoen, MD, presented concrete evidence showing that statin cholesterol-lowering drugs (Lipitor, Zocor, Pravachol, Lescol, and Mevacor) reduce CoQ10 levels in the blood, muscles, and heart tissues, and that supplementing with CoQ10 may restore levels to normal—which leads me to my talk.
Dark Side of Statins Known but Not Revealed
In my presentation, I pointed out that it is these CoQ10 depletions that cause the statin drugs’ well-known complications of myopathy (including cardio-myopathy) and liver toxicity—and that the drugs’ manufacturers are well aware of this.
In 1990, two patents were issued covering the use of CoQ10 in combination with statin drugs to prevent, treat, or ameliorate the complications brought on by the drugs. The first patent (US Patent #4,929,437), issued to Jonathan A. Tobert and assigned to Merck & Co., clearly states that by lowering CoQ10, the statin drugs can cause predictable elevations of liver enzymes with liver damage. It also states that by giving CoQ10 along with the drugs this complication can be prevented, or treated if it already exists.
A month later, a second patent (#4,933,165) was issued to Nobel laureate Michael S. Brown, MD, well known in scientific circles for his work in fat and cholesterol metabolism. This patent, which was also assigned to Merck, states that statin drugs, by causing a reduction in CoQ10, can produce complications of muscle pain, weakness, and myopathy. The patent covers a combination product of CoQ10 added to a statin to prevent these complications, plus the use of CoQ10 for the treatment of these complications.
Incredibly and inexplicably, Merck never exercised these patents, never made combination CoQ10-statin products, and even more ominous, never attempted to educate physicians or patients about the very dangerous statin-CoQ10 connection. Even though patients are informed of potential side effects of muscle weakness and soreness and liver enzyme elevation, they are not told that this is likely due to the drug’s reduction of CoQ10. Nor are they told that by supplementing with CoQ10 they could prevent or eliminate these problems. And there have been consequences.
“Miracle Drugs” or Public Health Menace?
As you may recall, one statin drug, Baycol, was taken off the market several years ago because it was linked to hundreds of cases of severe muscle myopathy and rhabdomyolysis (complete muscle breakdown) and dozens of deaths. Had the patients taking Baycol been given CoQ10 as well, I believe they likely would have avoided these deadly complications.
In spite of the fact that Baycol was removed from the market, there has been no mention whatsoever by any of the drug companies or the press that CoQ10 deficiencies may have been the likely culprit. This is particularly vexing since the patent that was issued over a decade ago clearly outlines the mechanism that caused these problems. We who have been yelling about the statin-CoQ10 connection (and there are alarmingly few of us) are beginning to feel like the Aflac duck—our warnings are falling on deaf ears.
We now have a huge public health disaster in the making. It is predicted that with the recent changes to the cholesterol guidelines, the number of Americans taking statin drugs will increase from the current 13 million to 36 million. The problems that may arise as a result of the inevitable CoQ10 depletions that will occur in these millions of people are staggering. Hundreds of thousands of people could be severely damaged by these drugs, virtually all of them unnecessarily.
Urgent Need for a Global Response
I announced that I had petitioned the FDA to require a warning on the labels of the statin cholesterol-lowering drugs stating that they block the production of CoQ10 and put people at risk of side effects. These side effects (liver dysfunction and myopathy, including cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure) are specifically caused by drug-induced reduction of CoQ10 levels. The label warning should clearly state that patients taking statin drugs should also take 100 to 200 mg of CoQ10 to prevent and treat these side effects.
In closing, I encouraged the members of this international group to petition the regulatory agencies in their own countries for similar drug label warnings. It is my hope that these international scientists and physicians will become more proactive in alerting people throughout the world about the dangers of statin drugs—and bring their extremely important discoveries about CoQ10 into the mainstream.
Due to rapidly rising legal fees, I was forced to dropped my lawsuit. The FDA still refuses to require the dissemination of this important information.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 2002. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.