Coenzyme Q10, an over-the-counter supplement, can cut a person’s risk of dying from heart failure in half and should be added to standard treatments for heart attack victims, according to new research presented to the European Society of Cardiology.

Researchers performed a multi-center, randomized, double-blind trial with 420 patients from around the world who experienced heart failure. Half were give coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and half were given a placebo along with other standard treatments. 

“Other heart failure medications block rather than enhance cellular processes and may have side effects,” lead researcher Prof. Svend Aage Mortensen of Copenhagen University Hospital said in a press release. “Supplementation with CoQ10, which is a natural and safe substance, corrects a deficiency in the body and blocks the vicious metabolic cycle in chronic heart failure called the energy starved heart.” 

After two years, patients taking CoQ10 were half as likely to experience another major cardiovascular event that required hospitalization. It also halved their chances of dying from all causes.

CoQ10 levels decrease in heart muscle after heart failure, and researchers say those patients treated with the supplement experienced fewer symptoms and improved quality of life with no side effects.

“CoQ10 is the first medication to improve survival in chronic heart failure since ACE inhibitors and beta blockers more than a decade ago and should be added to standard heart failure therapy,” Mortensen said.

He presented his findings Saturday during the Heart Failure 2013 congress in Lisbon, Portugal. However, the research has yet to be published in a medical journal.

What Is CoQ10?

CoQ10 is an antioxidant naturally produced by the body. It is vital for the health of cells, helping them to produce energy.

CoQ10 levels are believed to decrease with age and with the use of some medications, including statins, which are commonly prescribed after a heart attack because they block the synthesis of cholesterol.

A potentially dangerous muscle-wasting disease called rhabdomyolysis has been linked to statin-induced depletion of CoQ10 in the body, which is why CoQ10 supplements are often recommended for people on statin therapy. 

CoQ10 is sold as a nutritional supplement but still remains controversial. The most promising evidence available says it may be effective in treating high blood pressure, while ongoing research links it to a decrease in age-related vision problems, Alzheimer’s disease, angina, and more, according to the Mayo Clinic

“Food supplements can influence the effect of other medications, including anticoagulants, and patients should seek advice from their doctor before taking them,” Mortensen cautions.

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