Vol. 2, #5
February 5, 2005

Q: Does genetics put limits on each person's potential? - Layperson

A: At one time it was believed that the limits were set by genetics and that certain traits could not be overcome. Now the truth lies closer to "mind over matter". Genetics is like playdough - we all receive some playdough, some get more than others, there are different colors, some is harder than others, but we all get some. The playdough we get can be altered in many ways as can genetics. Some require a great deal of effort such as a furnace to heat and harden the clay or genetic manipulation to alter the genes or as simple as adding more clay or eating more food. Many genetic limits can be overcome with varying degrees of effort. Again, the mind really sets the limits. As an example, there is no evidence of just how strong can a person become. The 1,000 lb. barrier has now been broken either, officially or unofficially, for the benchpress, deadlift, and squat. Ten years ago, this was thought unobtainable by a human being. Even in the same person, strength can vary widely. We have all heard the story of a frail grandmotherly type, weighing less than a hundred pounds, dripping wet, lifting one end of a full size automobile off her grandchild pinned under a wheel when just a few minutes before she could just barely lift herself out of a chair. Just what the limits are, we may never know.

Q. What is Coenzyme Q10 and what is it used for? - Layperson

Coenzyme Q10 (also known as CoQ10, Q10, vitamin Q10, ubiquinone, or ubidecarenone)is essentially a vitamin or vitamin-like substance.  A coenzyme is a substance needed for the proper functioning of an enzyme, a protein that speeds up the rate at which chemical reactions take place in the body. The Q and the 10 in coenzyme Q10 refer to parts of the compound's chemical structure. Disagreements on nomenclature notwithstanding, vitamins are defined as organic compounds essential in minute amounts for normal body function acting as coenzymes or precursors to coenzymes. They are present naturally in foods and sometimes are also synthesized in the body. CoQ10 likewise is found in small amounts in a wide variety of foods and is synthesized in all tissues. The biosynthesis of CoQ10 from the amino acid tyrosine is a multistage process requiring at least eight vitamins and several trace elements. Coenzymes are cofactors upon which the comparatively large and complex enzymes absolutely depend for their function. CoQ10 is the coenzyme for at least three mitochondrial enzymes (complexes I, II and III) as well as enzymes in other parts of the cell. Mitochondrial enzymes of the oxidative phosphorylation pathway are essential for the production of the high-energy phosphate, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), upon which all cellular functions depend. The electron and proton transfer functions of the quinone ring are of fundamental importance to all life forms; ubiquinone in the mitochondria of animals, plastoquinone in the chloroplast of plants, and menaquinone in bacteria. The term "bioenergetics" has been used to describe the field of biochemistry looking specifically at cellular energy production. In the related field of free radical chemistry, CoQ10 has been studied in its reduced form as a potent antioxidant.

Coenzyme Q10 is used by cells to produce energy needed for cell growth and maintenance. It is also used by the body as an antioxidant. An antioxidant is a substance that protects cells from chemicals called free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals that can damage important parts of cells, including deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). (DNA is a molecule inside cells that carries genetic information and passes it from one generation to the next.) This damage may play a role in the development of cancer.

Coenzyme Q10 is found in most body tissues. The highest amounts are found in the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas. The lowest amounts are found in the lungs. Tissue levels of coenzyme Q10 decrease as people get older.

Coenzyme Q10 is usually taken by mouth as a pill (tablet or capsule). It may also be given by injection into a vein (IV). In animal studies, coenzyme Q10 is given by injection.

No serious side effects have been reported from the use of coenzyme Q10. Some patients using coenzyme Q10 have experienced mild insomnia (inability to sleep), elevated levels of liver enzymes, rashes, nausea, and upper abdominal pain. Other reported side effects have included dizziness, visual sensitivity to light, irritability, headache, heartburn, and fatigue.

Patients should talk with their health care provider about possible interactions between coenzyme Q10 and prescription drugs they may be taking. Certain drugs, such as those that are used to lower cholesterol or blood sugar levels, may reduce the effects of coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 may also alter the body’s response to warfarin (a drug that prevents the blood from clotting) and insulin

CoQ10 was first isolated from beef heart mitochondria by pure Dr. Frederick Crane of Wisconsin, U.S.A., in 1957. The same year, Professor Morton of England defined a compound obtained from vitamin A deficient rat liver to be the same as CoQ10. Professor Morton introduced the name ubiquinone, meaning the ubiquitous quinone. In 1958, Professor Karl Folkers and coworkers at Merck, Inc., determined the precise chemical structure of CoQ10 dimethoxy-5 methyl-6 decaprenyl benzoquinone, synthesized it, and were the first to produce it by fermentation. In the mid-1960's, Professor Yamamura of Japan became the first in the world to use coenzyme Q7 (a related compound) in the treatment of human disease: congestive heart failure. In 1966, Mellors and Tappel showed that reduced CoQ6 was an effective antioxidant. In 1972 Gian Paolo Littarru of Italy along with Professor Karl Folkers documented a deficiency of CoQ10 in human heart disease. By the mid-1970's, the Japanese perfected the industrial technology to produce pure CoQ10 in quantities sufficient for larger clinical trials. Peter Mitchell received the Nobel Prize in 1978 for his contribution to the understanding of biological energy transfer through the formulation of the chemiosmotic theory, which includes the vital protonmotive role of CoQ10 in energy transfer systems. In the early 1980's, there was a considerable acceleration in the number and size of clinical trials. These resulted in part from the availability of CoQ10 in large quantities from pharmaceutical companies in Japan and from the capacity to directly measure CoQ10 in blood and tissue by high performance liquid chromatography. Lars Ernster of Sweden, enlarged upon CoQ10's importance as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger. Professor Karl Folkers went on to receive the Priestly Medal from the American Chemical Society in 1986 and the National Medal of Science from President Bush in 1990 for his work with CoQ10 and other vitamins.

Normal blood and tissue levels of CoQ10 have been well established by numerous investigators around the world. Significantly decreased levels of CoQ10 have been noted in a wide variety of diseases in both animal and human studies. CoQ10 deficiency may be caused by insufficient dietary CoQ10, impairment in CoQ10 biosynthesis, excessive utilization of CoQ10 by the body, or any combination of the three. Decreased dietary intake is presumed in chronic malnutrition and cachexia. The relative contribution of CoQ10 biosynthesis versus dietary CoQ10 is under investigation. Karl Folkers takes the position that the dominant source of CoQ10 in man is biosynthesis. This complex, 17 step process, requiring at least seven vitamins (vitamin B2 - riboflavin, vitamin B3 - niacinamide, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and pantothenic acid) and several trace elements, is, by its nature, highly vulnerable. Karl Folkers argues that suboptimal nutrient intake in man is almost universal and that there is subsequent secondary impairment in CoQ10 biosynthesis. This would mean that average or "normal" levels of CoQ10 are really suboptimal and the very low levels observed in advanced disease states represent only the tip of a deficiency "ice berg". HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors used to treat elevated blood cholesterol levels by blocking cholesterol biosynthesis also block CoQ10 biosynthesis. The resulting lowering of blood CoQ10 level is due to the partially shared biosynthetic pathway of CoQ10 and cholesterol. In patients with heart failure this is more than a laboratory observation. It has a significant harmful effect which can be negated by oral CoQ10 supplementation. Increased body consumption of CoQ10 is the presumed cause of low blood CoQ10 levels seen in excessive exertion, hypermetabolism, and acute shock states. It is likely that all three mechanisms (insufficient dietary CoQ10, impaired CoQ10 biosynthesis, and excessive utilization of CoQ10) are operable to varying degrees in most cases of observed CoQ10 deficiency.

To date no daily recommendation for CoQ10  has been determined.  Most studies have used 200-1200 mg. daily to treat disease states.  A good starting point would be to use 100 mg. daily since most manufacturers make this dose already.

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DISCLAIMER:  The information in this column, is NOT intended to diagnose and/or treat any health related issues and is provided solely for informational purposes only. Consult the appropriate healthcare professional before making any changes to your healthcare regime. Even what may seem like simple changes in the diet for example, can interact with, and alter, the efficiency of medications and/or the body's response to the medications. Many herbs and supplements exert powerful medicinal effects. Neither the author, nor the website designers, assume any responsibility for the reader's use or misuse of this information.

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