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Episode 638
The Doctor's Farmacy

How CoQ10 Supports Heart Health, Prevents Migraines, And Improves Cognition

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CoQ10 is a compound whose job is to help cells generate energy, so it’s no surprise there are so many wonderful benefits to getting enough of this critical coenzyme. Although you can find it in supplement form, it is also naturally produced by the body. Unfortunately, however, as you age the production of CoQ10 declines. It also declines with chronic stress, toxin exposures, and certain medications. The decreased amount of CoQ10 in your cells contributes to the gradual loss of energy that most of us experience in our thirties and beyond.

In today’s episode of my series I’m calling Health Bites, I am talking all about coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10—what it is, what it can do for us, and how to ensure we are getting enough of this critical nutrient.

This episode is brought to you by Rupa Health and Athletic Greens.

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I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

Transcript Note: Please forgive any typos or errors in the following transcript. It was generated by a third party and has not been subsequently reviewed by our team.

Narrator:
Coming up on this episode of The Doctor’s Pharmacy.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s something I use regularly for migraines, regularly for heart patients. By the way, everybody with a statin, which I don’t prescribe that often, but it can be useful sometimes, definitely gets Co Q 10.
Hey everybody, it’s Dr. Mark Hyman. Welcome to The Doctor’s Pharmacy, a place where conversations that matter. And today I’m bringing you something called a health bite, which is something you can use to improve your health by taking small steps every day that can have significant benefits for your health over time.
All right, let’s get into today’s topic, which is Coenzyme Q 10. Now before you turn off, it’s really important. I’m going to tell you why it’s going to give you more energy and help you live longer and help you deal with all sorts of chronic issues and why it’s critical to energy, which we all want more of. So the more we study, learn about the body, the more we learn about how phenomenal our bodies really are. And one of the discoveries that was actually not too long ago, in the fifties, was of a compound called Coenzyme Q 10, also known as Co Q 10. And it’s an extremely important molecule because it helps our bodies take the energy that’s in food and oxygen that we breathe and turn it into energy that our bodies can use in the form of ATP.
You might have taken high school biology. You learn about the Kreb cycle. Well this is where it does its work and it’s so important. So what is CoQ10 and why is so important? Well, it helps cells make energy, which is what we all want more of. Now you can buy it online, you can get it a supplement store, but it’s actually produced by the body.
Now, one of the things you might not know, and this is a little tidbit here, is that when you look at the most common cholesterol drugs called statins, they actually block an enzyme called HMG-CoA Reductase. Now that is the enzyme that produces cholesterol, but it also is the enzyme in the body that produces CoQ10. And we see a lot of people with muscle pain and aching and mitochondrial injury, which is a little energy fact in your cells when they take a statin because I believe it interrupts CoQ10 production, which is necessary to make energy. And so your muscles can ache, you don’t have energy and you end up with this cellular damage. So it’s a little important thing to remember if you are taking a statin. CoQ10 is super important. In fact, there are even drugs out there that now combine CoQ10 and statins because they know it’s so important.
So basically your body makes energy in your mitochondria, these little subcellular organelles or anywhere from hundreds to thousands and thousands of these inside a single cell that basically take oxygen and food and combust them like an engine and produce energy. Your car runs on gas, but your body runs on this thing called ATP. But it’s like an assembly line and it needs all these different steps and all these different enzymes, all these different nutrients. And one of the key steps requires Coenzyme Q 10 to make energy.
Now when you get older, your CoQ10 production declines. It declines with other things like stress, chronic stress, toxins, even medications like statins. And when you have lower levels of CoQ10, it leads this lower level of energy that we experience as we get older, but it also leads to some serious diseases.
Now it’s kind of a cool thing. It was discovered, as I said in the fifties, in 1957, scientists didn’t really catch on to it for a number of decades. But in 1978, the Nobel Prize was awarded in chemistry to the scientists who understood how mitochondria make use of CoQ10 to make energy. And then the sciences exploded on CoQ10.
Now what are the benefits of CoQ10? Why should we care? What should we do? Well, it has a lot of benefits, simply for the fact that it’s so key to making energy, which is key to everything else in our body. It’s also a great antioxidant and it helps deal with free radicals that can damage ourselves. Now when you see CoQ10 in the research, you see low levels linked to all sorts of age related diseases, whether it’s dementia, Parkinson’s, degenerative diseases. But the good news is that you can increase CoQ10 in your diet and it’s good for you.
But I’m going to explain to you how it works, why it’s important, and some of the amazing research that we now know about CoQ10 that can kind of implore us to be way more cognizant of how much we’re getting. We can even measure, and I do this in my practice, measure CoQ10 levels. I see lots of people with low CoQ10 levels and get the foods that increase CoQ10, reduce the reasons and exposure to things that cause us to reduce CoQ10 production, like the stressors and bad diet and all the normal stuff we talked about, the toxins, allergens, microbes, stress, all that that actually cause injury to the mitochondria and damage to our energy production. But it can do so many things.
One of the areas where it’s so great is heart health. In fact, there’s a whole field of metabolic cardiology, which is how do we rejuvenate weak hearts? Congestive heart failure is really common and it’s sort of debilitating disease. The average life expectancy once you get it is about five years, which is like cancer, most people don’t realize that. But in the heart muscle is and the brain are the highest concentrations of mitochondria and so it’s no surprise that CoQ10 plays a huge role in heart function. In one study, about 420 people with heart failure, where the heart’s not pumping and the muscle isn’t working because of lack of energy, if they were given Coenzyme Q 10, they had improved symptoms and they had a lower risk of dying from heart related issues.
Another study treated about 600 patients with CoQ10 or a placebo and found that the group that got the CoQ10 was in the hospital less and had fewer complications than the placebo group and did better overall in their heart function. It’s also important in the brain and migraines. It’s something I use regularly for migraines, regularly for heart patients.
By the way, everybody with a statin, which I don’t prescribe that often, but it can be useful sometimes, definitely gets CoQ10, but it’s great for migraines. Not all migraines, but there are certain migraines, ’cause there’s not such thing as a migraine, there are many, many different types of migraines. Some maybe caused gluten or hormones or the microbiome or mitochondrial issues or CoQ10 issues. And so there’s a lot of reasons for migraines, even though they all manifest as the same symptom. And in functional medicine we say just because you know the name of the disease, it doesn’t mean you know what’s wrong with you. The name of the disease is just the name we give to people who share a set of symptoms. But the causes may be different for different people.
And sometimes it is a CoQ10 deficiency that’s been linked to migraines because bad mitochondrial function can lead to more inflammation, oxidative stress and anti-ox, and that actually can result in these headaches. So when you actually take CoQ10, you get better mitochondrial function, lower inflammation. And researchers in one study found that high quality CoQ10 supplements were three times more likely to reduce migraines than a placebo. Another study of about 1500 patients found they had fewer and less severe headaches after they began taking CoQ10. So it’s something you have to figure out why you’re getting to migraine in the first place, but it can be a great adjunct.
It also helps blood sugar control. And since about 93% of us are metabolically unhealthy and have some degree now of insulin dysregulation and pre-diabetes, we see that it really helps with improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar. And that’s great because we’re seeing just such a burden of this and something we can do to actually mitigate that is to take a little CoQ10. It may even prevent diabetes by reducing number of fat cells that accumulate the body that lead to more obesity and diabetes. I mean it’s an energy problem. Also it’s been shown to help slow down or stave off, reverse Alzheimer’s. Mitochondria are the main energy source of your cells, especially brain cells. And when your mitochondria not functioning, it can kill the brain cells or make them not work well. And we see from the research that CoQ10 is actually neuroprotective.
Dr. Dell Brennison is a colleague and friend who’s functional medicine to treat Alzheimer’s in his recode program. It’s a key part of the program. Also in Parkinson’s disease, high dose CoQ10 can also help with tremor and symptoms and Parkinson’s is a mitochondrial issue. So most chronic illnesses and most diseases of aging are ultimately mitochondrial of problems.
And in my book, Young Forever, which is coming out in February, 2023, I talk a lot about the causes of aging and mitochondrial dysfunction as one of the 10 hallmarks of aging. And we need to learn how to take care of mitochondria and protect your mitochondria. I mean, CoQ10 is just one part of the story, but it’s an important part.
Okay, so how do we get CoQ10 in our diet? What do we have to do? Well, if you think you’re low in CoQ10, you’re maybe in your thirties or forties or older, you’re probably right and you can get both CoQ10 rich foods and you can take a high quality supplement. I personally do both. There are a number of foods that are really high in CoQ10, probably stuff people don’t eat that much like organ meats, like liver, kidney, heart. You can actually take organ meat supplements now. There’s actually a great company called Mighty Meats, which it kind of grinds them up into a hamburger and mixed it with some beef. So it actually doesn’t taste weird or bad. And I had them, they’re delicious, Mighty Meats. I don’t have any relationship with the company, but they’re pretty awesome. And that’s a great way to get CoQ10. Wild caught cold water, fish like trout, herring, mackerel, certain vegetables, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, fruits, sometimes like strawberries, oranges, nuts and seeds, all can help you boost your CoQ10 levels.
Now, even if you’re eating a healthy diet, I think it’s important to supplement and it’s one of those key supplements I take. And I’ve had chronic fatigue syndrome, I’ve had severe mitochondrial injury. I know what it’s like, I know what it feels like, it’s horrible. And I used CoQ10 for a long time to help me deal with this. And now I just take it as my general longevity stack. And so I basically take Ubiquinol, which is an easier used form of CoQ10, they use pure encapsulations and I use a hundred to 200 milligrams a day for the average person.
So I hope you learned about why it’s important to manage your energy, why CoQ10’s important, how it affects so many different conditions and can use a little health bite to get you healthier. So it’s kind of a mitochondrial all star, CoQ10, lots of benefits for it and there are no side effects. It’s very safe to take. It’s a no brainer. I encourage you to focus on this for your daily regimen and see how you feel.
And that’s pretty much it for today’s health bite. I hope you loved it. If you like it, please share your friends and family on social media. Leave a comment, have you used things to help your mitochondria, CoQ10, what have you noticed? We’d love to hear from you and we’ll see you next time on The Doctor’s Pharmacy.

Narrator:
Hi everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their find a practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.

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