Caring Currents

Coenzyme Q10 Supplement Shows Promise In Preventing or Halting Parkinson's

Last updated: Sep 25, 2009

Michael J. Fox
Image by Alan Light used under the creative commons attribution license.

This week researchers at Rush University Medical Center announced that they're studying whether high doses of the supplement coenzyme Q10 can protect against Parkinson's disease -- or slow its development once it starts. The new research follows up smaller studies that showed that patients with early-stage Parkinson's who took 1200 mg of coenzyme Q10 for 16 months had significantly less decline than other patients in motor function. Those who took CoQ10 maintained their ability to carry out activities of daily living such as feeding or dressing themselves. Previously, researchers found that Parkinson's patients have low levels of coenzyme Q10 in their blood and that CoQ10 can protect the area of the brain damaged in Parkinson's.

Coenzyme Q10, also called ubiquinone, is a compound that's made naturally in the body; a coenzyme helps an enzyme do its job. The body's cells use coenzyme Q10 to make energy needed for the cells to grow and stay healthy. The body also uses coenzyme Q10 as an antioxidant; antioxidants protect cells from genetic damage that leads to cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's, and other conditions.

Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects about one million people in the United States. Actor Michael J. Fox, who contracted Parkinson's while still in his late 30s, has been a prominent public spokesperson for Parkinson's research. Coenzyme Q10 research has been supported by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, which studies prevention and treatment for Parkinson's.

The reason this new study is so exciting is that it's a big, randomized trial funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, so if it proves conclusive it will legitimize CoQ10 use for Parkinson's. Researchers will follow 600 patients enrolled at 60 different centers in the U.S. and Canada.

Integrative medicine experts have been excited about coenzyme Q10 for a long time, and not just for Parkinson's. Other studies have suggested it can prevent cancer and heart disease, though results of studies have been mixed. An oral rinse containing CQ10 is also being used to prevent and treat gum disease, and the results of preliminary studies are encouraging.

Bottom line: If you or someone you're caring for has Parkinson's, should they take coenzyme Q10? After all, the supplement coenzyme Q10 is available without a prescription at health food stores, so it's easy to get.

The answer is, it's not usually a good idea to just run out and buy a supplement without talking to your doctor. Coenzyme Q10 can have side effects, and cancer patients in particular are cautioned because CoQ10 can interfere with some forms of chemotherapy. That said, the medical mainstream seems to be getting behind coenzyme Q10, at least for Parkinson's and gum disease. This latest research effort suggests that coenzyme Q10 shows enough promise that Parkinson's patients and their families should ask about it.