Q10, a commonly available dietary supplement, may soon be on many more people's lips … literally.
A powerful over-the-counter antioxidant, coenzyme Q10 has demonstrated significant potential in several disease areas from cardiology to cataracts to cancer. And now new research suggests it could help bring new hope to those with Parkinson's, the devastating neurodegenerative disease.
A study published in the journal Archives of Neurology suggests that coenzyme Q10 may be able to accomplish what current treatments for Parkinson's disease cannot; slow its progression. The ailment afflicts between one-million and 1½ million Americans with 50,000 new cases reported every year.
Coenzyme Q10 is a naturally occurring compound produced by the body that works by neutralizing molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals are present in high levels in the energy-producing components of cells and can cause cell damage and death.
In Parkinson's disease, research has shown that this free radical damage is greater in the area of the brain responsible for movement control, which leads to cell death and development of the disease.
In the latest research, 80 Parkinson's sufferers were randomly assigned to receive coenzyme Q10 at three different doses, or a placebo. The progressive deterioration in movement that characterizes the disease was slowed by 44 percent in those who took the highest doses.
"There's really no treatment that has been shown unequivocally to slow the progression of the disease," says Dr. Clifford Shults, lead author of the study and professor of neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego. "Our data suggests that coenzyme Q10 may, but it clearly needs to be confirmed and extended."
Marcia Buck, a clinical pharmacy specialist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville agrees. "This is the first study, to my knowledge, of this size for this indication...but the sample size is still too small to make many conclusions."
Neurodegenerative Disease Breakthrough?
Parkinson's is not the only neurodegenerative ailment for which coenzyme Q10's antioxidant effects may have an application.
In one recent trial published in the journal Neurology, Q10 was shown to have a 14 percent effect in slowing the progression of Huntington's disease. While this finding did not achieve statistical significance, it was viewed as encouraging nonetheless.
"The maximum dose was 600 milligrams per day," explains Dr. Flint Beal, professor and chair of neurology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York. "The dose that was used in the Parkinson's trial that shows the biggest effect is 1,200 milligrams per day. So it's conceivable that using a higher dose in Huntington's disease might have a bigger effect."
Q10 has shown small significant benefit in treating ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and it has also has been used to treat a range of rare pediatric neurological diseases.
And while no research has been conducted to date, theoretical evidence suggests that coenzyme Q10 may help treat Alzheimer's disease. "From a conceptual standpoint, it is very reasonable to hypothesize that it could potentially be beneficial, particularly in view of this evidence from Parkinson's disease," adds Beal.
Putting the Heart First