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CoQ10 and Statins: What You Need to Know

What is CoQ10?

Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is a substance that the human body makes naturally. Cells use it to generate energy. CoQ10 also functions as a powerful antioxidant to help fight free radicals that can damage cells and DNA.

However, your body produces less and less CoQ10 as you get older. People with certain conditions, including diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and heart problems, tend to have low levels of CoQ10. It isn’t known if disease causes the deficiency or if the deficiency appears first, causing cells to age faster and making disease more likely.

Although your body produces its own CoQ10, you can also get it from certain foods. The best sources of CoQ10 are oily fish and organ meats, such as beef liver. It can also be found in whole grains. A man-made form of CoQ10 is available as a supplement in most pharmacies and health food stores.

CoQ10 levels and statin side effects

Statins are a class of prescription drugs designed to lower high cholesterol. Although statins are very effective, they’re not for everybody. Statins can cause side effects such as:

  • muscle pain
  • nausea and diarrhea
  • liver and kidney damage
  • increased blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes

Some people experience more serious problems, including a condition known as rhabdomyolysis. It occurs when muscle cells break down. As muscles collapse, a certain protein is released into the bloodstream. In turn, this can cause severe kidney problems.

Along with these effects, statins also lower your body’s levels of coenzyme Q10. As the levels drop, the side effects of statins increase.

Possible benefits of CoQ10 supplements

Taking CoQ10 supplements can help increase your CoQ10 levels and may reduce statin side effects. Study results of the benefits of CoQ10 for reducing muscle pain associated with statin use are conflicting, however.

For muscle pain

In a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, researchers indicate that using CoQ10 supplements seemed to decrease the muscle breakdown, pain, and discomfort of people taking statins. However, a recent study in Atherosclerosis suggests that CoQ10 does not improve muscle pain in people taking statins.

For heart health

CoQ10 supplementation may also function as a natural aid in lowering cholesterol and improving heart health. While there aren’t enough studies to confirm how well it works to do this, it may be possible to combine CoQ10 with statins for better results.

Many studies review the connection between CoQ10 supplement use and heart health. A review published in Circulation: Heart Failure suggests that patients with heart failure who took CoQ10 supplements experienced fewer symptoms and complications than those who took a placebo. Another review, published in Atherosclerosis, suggests that CoQ10 might improve the health of blood vessels in people with or without heart disease. However, not all research is positive. While it was once thought that CoQ10 could improve blood pressure, a recent review published in the Cochrane Library suggests that CoQ10 does not decrease blood pressure any more than placebo does.

Other considerations

CoQ10 is considered a nutritional supplement and not a medication, so it’s not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Coenzyme Q10 supplements have few reported side effects. The most common seems to be stomach upset. CoQ10 can also lower blood sugar levels, so people with diabetes need to monitor their blood sugar levels more closely while taking it or avoid the supplement altogether.

CoQ10 supplements can interact with some medications, including beta-blockers, some antidepressants, and chemotherapy drugs. Your doctor might need to change your statin dosage if you also take CoQ10 supplements.  Make sure you consult your doctor before taking CoQ10.

The bottom line

Although CoQ10 supplements seems to show much promise for heart health, their effectiveness for improving muscle pain from statins is unclear. Overall, more studies are needed to confirm their benefit for this side effect.

If you’re taking statins and have unpleasant side effects, discuss CoQ10 supplements with your doctor. CoQ10 appears to be safe and well-tolerated. Taking it may be a good option for you, especially if you’re in good health.

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