Since the Life Extension Foundation first introduced coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) to the United States in 1983, hundreds of published, peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated how this natural supplement combats heart disease, cancer, and other disorders of aging.
While CoQ10 is widely recognized by Life Extension members as a nutrient that protects heart health,1 provocative new research indicates that CoQ10 may have a wide range of benefits that include preventing skin cancer and photoaging,2-4 guarding against prostate and breast cancers,5-7 supporting healthy blood sugar levels in diabetics,8-10 and averting endothelial dysfunction and vascular disease.11,12
Scientists around the globe also report additional novel uses of CoQ10, such as helping to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease,13-15 preventing crippling migraine headaches,16,17 supporting immune health,18-20 guarding against periodontal disease,1,10 preserving healthy vision,21,22 and boosting male fertility.10
In this article, we review a wide array of compelling studies that support CoQ10 supplementation as a cornerstone of a scientific health-protection program. Moreover, we examine the differences between natural, bioidentical forms of CoQ10 and their synthetic analogs, and how you can ensure that your supplement contains the most effective form of CoQ10.
Protecting Against Melanoma and Photoaging
One of the most important new applications for CoQ10 may be the prevention of deadly melanoma. Worldwide, doctors are witnessing a dramatic increase in skin cancer cases. Recently, scientists in Italy have found that CoQ10 may play a significant role in deterring the growth of skin cancer cells. In a study published earlier this year, Italian researchers discovered that 117 melanoma patients had abnormally low CoQ10 levels compared to 125 study participants who were free of the cancer. CoQ10 levels also were significantly lower in melanoma patients who developed metastases than in metastasis-free patients. These results suggest that measuring CoQ10 levels may help determine whether an individual’s melanoma is likely to metastasize. While additional studies are needed to determine whether CoQ10 can successfully block the spread of melanoma, these initial findings offer hope that CoQ10 may help in the fight against this deadliest of skin cancers.2
In addition to CoQ10’s promise in protecting against melanoma, recent research suggests that topically applied CoQ10 may also protect the skin against photoaging, or skin aging caused by exposure to ultraviolet light. German scientists demonstrated that topically applied CoQ10 penetrates the skin’s surface to the living layers of the epidermis, where it reduced oxidative stress, a known contributor to aging and disease. They also noted a marked reduction in the depth of wrinkles following the application of CoQ10. In addition, topical CoQ10 helped protect the skin from the effects of UVA rays, a particularly harmful, DNA-damaging spectrum of ultraviolet light that conventional sunscreens do not block effectively. (See “The Sunscreen Paradox,” Life Extension, June 2006.) The German researchers concluded that CoQ10 may offset the effects of photoaging and thus promote more youthful-looking skin.3
CoQ10’s benefits for skin health were broadly confirmed in a study at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, where scientists found that daily treatment with a topical CoQ10 lotion provided antioxidant protection to the skin of both young and middle-aged study subjects.
The natural, yeast-derived form of CoQ10 used in the study was also much better absorbed than synthetic formulations. The researchers stated that daily topical application of antioxidants such as CoQ10 may form the basis of a lifelong strategy to protect the skin against the effects of oxidative stress.4
Helping Avert Prostate and Breast Cancers
Scientists are fascinated by CoQ10’s potential for preventing different types of cancer. Exciting new studies are presenting unique possibilities in the discipline of oncology. Research now suggests that in addition to protecting against melanoma, CoQ10 may help aging men and women to avert potentially lethal prostate and breast cancers. CoQ10 likewise appears to be beneficial to cancer patients who are undergoing or have completed a course of chemotherapy.
In an important laboratory study from Spain, CoQ10 dramatically altered the growth of malignant human prostate cells without adversely affecting the growth of non-malignant prostate cells. This led the Spanish research team to propose that CoQ10 may be an important preventive therapy for prostate cancer.5
For women undergoing conventional treatment for breast cancer, CoQ10 may play an important role in improving their outcomes. In a Danish clinical trial, 32 women with breast cancer were treated with CoQ10 in conjunction with conventional cancer therapy. All 32 subjects survived for the two-year duration of the study. Six patients experienced partial tumor regression and two saw a complete remission of their cancer. CoQ10 may thus help extend survival following conventional treatment for breast cancer.1
Many scientists believe that CoQ10 affords other important protective benefits for people undergoing other forms of cancer treatment. For example, CoQ10 can help shield against possible damage to heart muscle that can occur during use of the chemotherapy drug Adriamycin® (doxorubicin).6 CoQ10’s antioxidant and immune-enhancing properties may benefit patients both during and after cancer chemotherapy.1 Renowned integrative physician Andrew Weil, MD, founder and chairman of the University of Arizona’s Program in Integrative Medicine, suggests that chemotherapy patients may benefit from supplementing with 300 mg per day of CoQ10.7