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Does coenzyme Q10 help combat problems like hypertension or cancer?

By Judy Foreman
August 18, 2008
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Coenzyme Q{-1}{-0} is a fat-soluble, vitamin-like substance that works with other enzymes, particularly in the mitochondria, the "powerhouse" of the cell, to make energy. It also acts as an antioxidant, mopping up "free radicals" that can damage cells, said Douglas Wallace, a geneticist who directs the Center for Molecular and Mitochondrial Medicine and Genetics at the University of California, Irvine.

Scientists are increasingly interested in coenzyme Q{-1}{-0} because there's growing recognition of the importance of malfunctioning mitochondria in many diseases, including diabetes, obesity, heart problems, and autism, said Wallace.

CoenzymeQ{-1}{-0} is plentiful in foods including beef, soy oil, oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, and salmon, as well as nuts, whole grains, and vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, carrots, and cabbage, said Paula Quatromoni, a nutritionist and epidemiologist at Boston University. It's always better to get your vitamins from whole foods, she said, not supplements, "to be sure you're getting the balance of nutrients and phytochemicals that promote good health."

So, be cautious about the hype for supplements, said Quatromoni. "The websites that sell it make it sound like the scientific evidence is there, but those claims are not substantiated."

Like all dietary supplements, coenzyme Q{-1}{-0} is not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration prior to marketing, so products can vary widely in their formulations.

The supplement can also interact with other drugs, including cholesterol-lowering statins, insulin, beta-blockers, and blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin). In its role as a free-radical reducing antioxidant, coenzyme Q{-1}{-0} may actually interfere with cancer chemotherapy drugs that work by increasing free radicals to kill cancer cells.

JUDY FOREMAN

E-mail health questions to foreman@globe.com.

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