October 21, 2002
In recent years, a number of high profile celebrities have put a very human face on the debilitating effects of
Parkinson’s disease. Most notably, we’ve seen how actors Michael J. Fox and Katherine Hepburn, Pope John Paul II, and former boxing champion Muhammad Ali have struggled – often publicly – with the uncontrolled tremors that afflict more than 4 million people worldwide.
The standard treatment for Parkinson’s is a daily dosage of Levodopa, more commonly known as L-dopa, which the body converts into dopamine, a neurotransmitter necessary to control muscle activity. Parkinson’s disease causes a degeneration of the nerve cells that produce dopamine. The search for a way to halt this degeneration is described by one Parkinson’s researcher as his “Holy Grail.”
A promising new step toward that grail may have recently been taken, as reported at the American Neurological Association Annual Meeting in New York City last week. And at the center of this good news is a somewhat common supplement, quite familiar to HSI members: coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).
Brain follows heart
CoQ10 is a critical enzyme, a superior antioxidant, and is essential for the production of energy in every cell of the body. Through many years of research, CoQ10 has been shown to be effective in protecting the cardiovascular system and helping to prevent heart disease. Because researchers havenoted that Parkinson’s patients typically have low levels of CoQ10, a team of scientists at the University of California, San Diego, hypothesized that a deficiency of CoQ10 maY
contribute to nerve degeneration in the brain.
For almost a year and a half, the study examined 80 patients in their early 60s who demonstrated early signs of Parkinson’s disease. Forty subjects received a placebo, while the other forty were divided into 3 groups that received different daily doses of CoQ10: 300, 600 or 1,200 milligrams.
Using a scale that measures the severity of Parkinson’s symptoms, the researchers found that the 23 subjects who received the 1,200 mg dose showed a decline in mental function and muscle movement that was about 40% less than the placebo group. Subjects who received the lower dosages also showed less decline, but it was not as significant as in the high dosage group.
The UC team made two noteworthy conclusions. They observed that CoQ10 was safe and well tolerated with all three dosage levels used. And they showed that CoQ10 appears to slow the progressive deterioration of function for patients in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. In other words, while they may have taken the first step down the path to an eventual breakthrough, the use of CoQ10 at this point apparently only relieves the symptoms in the early stages of Parkinson’s.
The researchers also cautioned that further trials on a
larger scale are needed before doctors begin recommending CoQ10 supplements to Parkinson’s patients.
Keeping good levels up
For years we’ve been aware that CoQ10 may be an important addition to any supplement regimen that helps the heart stay healthy. Now the prospect that CoQ10 might also be a neuro-protective agent is very exciting news.
It is surprising to some to know that many of the most widely prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins)
actually deplete the body’s store of CoQ10. And when CoQ10 is deficient, the heart is one of the first areas to suffer, usually with congestive heart failure. If you take prescription heart medication, or if you feel you may be at high risk for cardiovascular problems, it would
probably be a very good idea to have your CoQ10 level tested.
According to HSI Medical Advisor Dr. Marty Milner, different laboratories use different methods to measure CoQ10, so “normal” reference points may vary. For example, the lab Dr. Milner uses measures CoQ10 levels in plasma; a normal range for that method is between .57 and 1.07 micrograms/ml. Your doctor can help you interpret the results of your lab report.
If you find you are deficient, CoQ10 supplements are widely available. Generally, most health professionals agree the absolute minimum you should take daily is 30 mg, with 100 mg being considered the optimal dose by many. However, some practitioners recommend taking one milligram of CoQ10 for every pound of body weight. But for people with serious heart problems, recommend doses as high as 300 to 400 mg per day
are not uncommon.
DR. GREENE’S COMMENT: There has been an epidemic of unexplained cases of “congestive heart failure” in the U. S. noted over the past few years. Folks, I’m willing to bet the farm that this increase parallels the increase in the use of the statin drugs. This is still another reason to stay away from these dangerous medications.
Also, I will tell you that Biotics Research Corp, here in Houston, Texas has been producing CoQ10 for almost 30 years… at least 5 years before anybody else even knew what CoQ10 was. Their product is emulsified which means that one 30mg tablet of their CoQ-Zyme 30 is the equivalent of taking 300mg from any other company. It is all in the absorbality of the product.