There are, no doubt, many nutrients that benefit the heart and cardiovascular system, the EPA component of omega 3 fatty acids and the grape seed extract of red wine to name a couple. But two crucial nutrients are especially worthy of attention, if not for the multi faceted support they actually provide, then to dispel the claims of what they’ve been rumored to do.
Coenzymes Q10 and A, Our Silent Helpers
First, what is a coenzyme? A substance that works with an enzyme to perform its function
And so, what is an enzyme? A protein that acts as a catalyst for a chemical action*
Our cardiovascular system is comprised of the heart, blood vessels and blood that carry nutrients through our bodies. A healthily functioning system relies upon many biological conditions and processes to properly perform its duties, including effective nutrient metabolism, sufficient energy production, and efficient circulation. And these are all aided by various enzymes of which Coenzyme Q 10 and Coenzyme A are the king and queen.
Interestingly enough, the existence of Coenzyme Q10 was first reported in 1957, simultaneously, by two different scientists. One Dr. Frederick Crane of Wisconsin isolated it from the heart of a cow and another Professor Morton of England extracted it from the liver of a rat. It is from this widespread presence that CoQ10 gets part of its scientific name, ubiquinone. Partially from the word ubiquitous, meaning that it exists everywhere.
Ubiquinone, aka CoQ10, is made by the body and present in every nook and cranny. But, the majority of this nutrient’s reserves are found in the heart. CoQ10 is critically involved in the production of the primary cellular fuel adenosine triphosphate, or ATP for short. All cells depend on ATP to perform their duties; but the body only stores small amounts of ATP at any given time and thus has to constantly produce the substance. CoQ10 actually carries the necessary protons and electrons into the energy producing portion of the cells for ATP synthesis. There, CoQ10 is stored and used by that cell to perform its specific actions or functions. Inside the heart, this function is to circulate blood. So, without CoQ10 the heart could not perform because it would not have the energy to do so.
Additionally, CoQ10 helps the cells break down and utilize fats and cholesterol, aids circulation and thus the flow of oxygen to the heart, helps lower blood pressure and provides a potent anti-oxidant. The body converts CoQ10/ubiquinone to the active antioxidant compound ubiquinol. Ubiquinol is thought to be more adept than Vitamin E at protecting our hearts from oxidative damage.
Because the body’s ability to convert CoQ10 to ubiquinol declines with age, it is thought that supplementation of the ubiquinol form should begin in the 40’s and should definitely be included in the treatment program of those with histories of cardiovascular disease or heart attack. Most CoQ10 supplements are in the ubiquinone form and suitable for preventive purposes. The richest natural sources are oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines; but good amounts are also found in organ meats, peanuts, whole grains and spinach.
Many mental and physical performance enhancers now include CoQ10 because of its role in ATP production, but you shouldn’t expect to “feel” the power of ubiquinone as it doesn’t energize in the way that caffeine or sugar does. In fact, unless you are managing a cardiovascular or circulatory ailment you may not feel the work performed by this nutrient at all. The measure of its effectiveness may instead lie in what you won’t feel-unprotected and vulnerable to cardiovascular disease.
Coenzyme A, aka CoA, has a few things in common with CoQ10. It too was first defined in the 1950’s and it is also present in all of the body’s cells. Coenzyme A works with CoQ10 to generate energy and metabolize fats; and it supports the adrenal glands’ production of stress managing hormones like cortisone. CoA also aids the body in the removal of toxins. It is believed to be the most active metabolic enzyme within the human body, acting as a catalyst to more than a hundred different chemical reactions.**
CoA is essential to our body’s processing and utilization of carbohydrates and fats. It helps the cells generate energy from glucose, and it carries fatty acids from the cell’s cytoplasm (the jelly like cellular filling) to the mitochondria (the cell’s energy production center). In this way, CoA actually starts the process of fatty acid metabolism and initiates the cell’s energy/ATP producing cycle.
Without Coenzyme A, approximately 90% of the body’s required energy would go unproduced, and consequently the processes fueled by this energy would go unfulfilled. This includes the work of the heart muscle, to which ATP greatly contributes. CoA thus becomes a cardio-protective nutrient through its role in ATP production and ATP’s role in increasing the heart muscle’s strength, density, energy and stamina.
United They Stand
Supplemental CoQ10 is available in a range of doses and can be taken in the powdered, liquid, gel, pill and even quick dissolving tab form; but the liquid and gel forms are thought to be best. Ubiquinone is better absorbed when taken with fatty foods, and the ubiquinol form is the most absorbable, consequently requiring much lighter dosages and smaller amounts.
30-50 mg/day of CoQ10 is appropriate for young healthy individuals, 50-200 mg is beneficial for heavy exercisers and middle-aged persons, and those with cardiovascular risks such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol may be prescribed doses as high as 400 mg/day. In most cases, CoQ10 can be taken along side cholesterol lowering statin medications without interference and can therefore help counteract the ubiquinone deficiency often caused by this class of drugs. Be selective when purchasing CoQ10 supplements; the purer the better and the color is a good gauge of this. The nutrient is naturally a bright yellow/orange color and virtually tasteless. Store the supplement in a dark cool place for safe keeping.
CoA is produced from Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) so sufficient levels of this nutrient must be maintained in order to insure CoA levels are adequate. A 50-100 mg/day dose should do the trick. Coincidentally, pantothenic is derived from the Greek word pantos which means “everywhere” and refers to its abundant presence in foods. Sound familiar? It even has some food sources in common with CoQ10- organ meats, whole grains, peanuts and spinach. Egg yolks, fish, chicken, cheese and dried beans are also good sources.***For supplemental options, Coenzyme-A Technologies, Inc is a highly regarded source.
Please don’t hesitate to check with your physician before adding these nutrients to your regimen. Happy healthy heart month! And as always…
*** Hass, MD, Elson M.(1992). Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Berkeley,CA. Celestial Arts Publishing
- CoQ10 Supplement Benefits (answers.com)
- Update on CoQ10 (nutrispire.wordpress.com)
- A Med Diet Plus CoQ10 (bodybegood.wordpress.com)