Dr. Andrew Weil on Using CoQ10 to Slow PD, etc

This will be of interest to those taking CoQ10 or considering taking CoQ10.

These two short Q&As were published on Dr. Andrew Weil’s website. The first is from March ’07 and specifically addresses PD (Parkinson’s Disease). The second is from August ’06 and is on the benefits of CoQ10 generally. I read about these today on an MSA-related online discussion group. Here are the web links and the text of the Q&As:


Q Slowing Parkinson’s Symptoms?
What do you think about using CoQ10 to reverse Parkinson’s disease? I have been using a CoQ10 product that I’m told can noticeably reverse symptoms in days.

A Answer (Published 3/28/2007)

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disease affecting the “substantia nigra,” a small area of cells in the mid-brain. Degeneration of these cells results in a reduction in levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine and upsets the balance between dopamine and another brain chemical, acetylcholine. The most familiar signs of the disease are tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; a generalized slowness of movement, stiff limbs, rigid facial expressions, and problems with balance or gait. Mental function can deteriorate in advanced cases.

There’s no cure for Parkinson’s but progression can be slowed and symptoms managed with a variety of drugs including L-Dopa (Levodopa) and Sinemet (Carbidopa). L-Dopa is converted to dopamine in the brain. Sinemet prevents L-Dopa from being broken down before it reaches the brain.

Coenzyme Q or CoQ10, a natural compound made by the body and found in most foods, improves use of oxygen at the cellular level, particularly in heart muscle cells. It is being studied as a treatment for a number of disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, and migraine, as well as Parkinson’s disease. Results from the first Parkinson’s study suggest that CoQ10 can slow the progression of the disease in its early stages. But this was a small trial, involving only 80 patients, and its findings must be confirmed in larger studies before we can say for sure that CoQ10 helps.

In the small study, the patients were divided into four groups: one group received a placebo, the others were given one of three doses: 300 mg, 600 mg or 1,200 mg of CoQ10 per day. All of the groups also took vitamin E. The patients who took 1,200 mg had 44 percent less decline in mental function, movement function, and the ability to carry out such everyday activities as dressing themselves and feeding themselves. The two groups that used the lower doses developed slightly less disability than the placebo group, but the progression of their disease wasn’t slowed as much as it was among those who took 1,200 mg daily. The placebo group had the greatest increase in disability.

While this research is promising, it falls far short of any claimed ability to “noticeably reverse symptoms in days.” A contention that CoQ10 can do this is unproven and irresponsible. Also note the 1,200 mg is a very large dose of CoQ10, which is an expensive supplement to begin with.

I recommend CoQ10 to anyone concerned about heart health (and I take 120 mg daily myself). Anyone taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol should take at least 60 to 90 mg of CoQ10 daily because statins suppress the body’s natural production of CoQ10 as well as that of cholesterol. I recommend it to Parkinson’s patients as well, but have to tell them that we have nothing but suggestive evidence at the moment that it will slow progression of the disease.

If your symptoms are troubling, try breath work, yoga and biofeedback to reduce stress; stress always worsens tremors. Acupuncture may also temporarily improve muscle function, and bodywork (I particularly recommend Trager and Feldenkrais work) can relieve stiffness.

Andrew Weil, M.D.


Q What’s with CoQ10?
I recently read an article that indicated that CoQ10 is no longer considered safe. What is your current position on CoQ10?

A Answer (Published 8/24/2006)

Coenzyme Q10, more widely known as CoQ10, is a natural antioxidant made by the body and found in most foods. Among its other effects, it improves use of oxygen at the cellular level, particularly in heart muscle cells. I recommend coenzyme Q10 to anyone concerned about heart health, and I take 120 mg daily myself. CoQ10 helps protect LDL (“bad”) cholesterol from oxidation, maintains healthy blood vessels, reduces the risk of plaque rupture and supports optimal functioning of the heart muscle. There is also some evidence that CoQ10 can help lower blood pressure. Anyone taking statins to lower cholesterol should take 60 to 90 mg daily because the drugs suppress production of CoQ10 as well as cholesterol. (Low CoQ10 levels in patients on statins can contribute to the common side effects of fatigue and aching joints and muscles.)

I haven’t heard of or seen any reports suggesting that CoQ10 is unsafe. On the contrary, the safety of this supplement has been well established over many years.

In addition to recommending CoQ10 for the heart problems mentioned above, I often advise people with diabetes to take it because they’re at greater-than-normal risk of cardiovascular disease. I also believe it maintains the health of gums, and emerging scientific evidence suggests that it may prove useful for other conditions:

Alzheimer’s disease: More research is needed, but there are indications that CoQ10 may slow the progression of dementia in Alzheimer’s patients.

Breast cancer: High doses (300 mg daily) may increase survival in breast cancer patients. Low sperm motility: A study published in the January 2004 issue of Fertility and Sterility suggests that CoQ10 may increase sperm motility in infertile men.

Migraine: A study from Switzerland published in the February 22, 2005, issue of Neurology suggests that CoQ10 can help prevent and treat migraine headaches.

Muscular dystrophy: More research is needed here, but CoQ10 seems to improve patients’ exercise capacity, heart function, and quality of life.

Parkinson’s disease: Preliminary but promising evidence indicates that high-doses of CoQ10 (1,200 mg a day) can be beneficial.

Take CoQ10 with a meal containing fat for best absorption. The best form to use is a softgel capsule. I continue to recommend at least 90-120 mg to anyone with a family history of heart problems or who is otherwise at risk for cardiovascular disease. Further, I see no reason why an otherwise healthy man, or woman, should not take CoQ10 preventively.

Andrew Weil, M.D.