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Supplementing with coenzyme Q10 could help bolster the health of critically ill patients

Coenzyme Q10 supplements could improve health of critically ill patients

18 August, 2013

Natural Health News — Low levels of coenzyme Q10 could significantly worsen the condition of critically ill patients, according to Harvard researchers.

People suffering from various critical illnesses such as severe infections, heart attacks or strokes, and cancer typically experience failure of multiple organs. Despite intense investigation for many years, the precise mechanisms underlying the multiple organ failure has baffled researchers.

Now, in a small study, the Harvard-based researchers have demonstrated that low levels of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) in patients with severe infection was associated with impaired cellular energy production and decreased ATP throughout their body.

The investigation of CoQ10 levels in these patients, published in the Journal of Critical Care, was based upon the hypothesis that a broad range of critically ill patients are likely deficient in CoQ10 and that could significantly worsen their condition and lead to organ failure and death.

To test this hypothesis, they determined blood CoQ10 levels in 36 critically ill patients in the intensive care unit at Massachusetts General Hospital compared to 18 healthy controls.

Results showed quite clearly that the critically ill patients suffered an approximately 40% drop in CoQ10 levels. The severity of the drop tended to correlate with age as older patients suffered greater reductions than younger patients.

There was no association between CoQ10 levels and severity of the illness, but those critically ill patients with higher CoQ10 levels had higher scores on a scale used to assess independence when performing six activities required for daily living (bathing, dressing, toileting, moving, continence, feeding).

Releasing energy

Coenzyme Q1,0 also known as ubiquinone, is an essential component of the mitochondria – the energy producing unit of the cells of our body. Its role in the energy production within our cells is similar to the role of a spark plug in a car engine. Just as the engine cannot function without that initial spark, our cells simply cannot function without CoQ10.

Although CoQ10 can be synthesized within the body, deficiencies do exist as a result of impaired CoQ10 synthesis or increased tissue needs. Diseases that require increased tissue levels of CoQ10 are primarily those that affect the heart, liver, brain, and muscles.

In addition, the elderly in general may have increased CoQ10 requirements as CoQ10 levels are known to decline with advancing age. Certain medications such as cholesterol-lowering drugs, especially statins, are also known to lower CoQ10 levels.

The authors of the study believe that CoQ10 supplementation may be of value in enhancing the health of critically ill patients. They conclude “our data provide a rationale for further observational and intervention clinical studies to define CoQ10 insufficiency and evaluate the safety and efficacy of CoQ10 supplementation in critically ill patients.”