By Carrie Myers
Americans spend more than $28 billion on vitamins and supplements each year and increasingly coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is on their shopping lists. Devotees of the supplement say it can lower blood pressure, reduce migraines, improve symptoms of Parkinson’s and depression, ward off dementia and even halt the aging process. Not surprisingly, there are naysayers who says these claims are overblown. In addition, people taking a wide range of medications — including drugs for diabetes, blood thinners and beta blockers for high blood pressure — have to be careful about using CoQ10 and some may need to avoid it altogether.
Potential Drug Interactions
The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM) is a good resource for information regarding the effects (positive and negative) of CoQ10 on certain medications and conditions. For example, it might help reduce the toxic effects certain chemotherapy drugs — daunorubicin (Cerubidin) and doxorubicin (Adriamycin) — on the heart.
On the other hand, there is some concern that CoQ10 might lower the effectiveness of some chemotherapy drugs. “There have been no well-controlled studies proving these interactions,” says Natalia Lukina, MS, founder and CEO of Vital Formulas, LCC. “People undergoing chemotherapy should consult their physicians.”
CoQ10 might enhance the effectiveness of certain blood pressure medications by adding to their ability to lower blood pressure. While this can be a benefit, it’s important to make sure your health care provider is aware that you are taking CoQ10 so that your blood pressure can be closely monitored and your medication adjusted accordingly to avoid low blood pressure (hypotension). Symptoms of low blood pressure include dizziness and fainting. If left untreated, low blood pressure can become life-threatening.
If you’re taking a blood thinner, do not use CoQ10 without consulting your healthcare provider. “CoQ10 can reduce the efficacy of Warfarin, a blood thinner,” explains Adam Splaver, MD, a cardiologist based in Hollywood, Florida. “Therefore, it is important to always inform your physician before you begin any vitamin supplementation and monitor your blood thinner levels a little more often when initiating such therapy.”
The Cleveland Clinic also issues this advisory in its CoQ10 guidelines:
“CoQ10 may lower blood sugar levels, and it should be monitored in patients with diabetes or patients taking medications or supplements that are known to lower blood sugar.”
The well-known medical center also raises a red flag on aspirin use and CoQ10.
“Caution is advised in people who have bleeding disorders or who are taking drugs that increase risk of bleeding, such as aspirin. For example, patients on CoQ10 are usually asked to discontinue use one week prior to surgery.”
Weighing the Risks & Benefits
Deciding whether to add CoQ10 to your daily health arsenal can be tricky. “Levels of CoQ10 produced by the body decrease as we age,” Lukina says, “Therefore, in my opinion, most people over 50 would benefit from taking CoQ10. Many feel a noticeable positive effect within days.”
The Mayo Clinic, on the other hand, has a long list of warnings and dosing suggestions depending on what ailment is being treated.
Carrie Myers is the mother of four sons, owner of CarrieMichele Fitness, and author of Squeezing Your Size 14 Self into a Size 6 World: A Real Woman’s Guide to Food, Fitness, and Self-Acceptance (Champion Press/Sourcebooks).