The recent clinical studies about dietary supplements have been largely negative, important reminders that most supplements can’t deliver on the expectations that patients have for them.

Given this bleak background, I wanted to share with you some good news about Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). The Medical Letter, one of the best unbiased sources of reviews of medical studies, reviewed CoQ10 in last week’s issue. Since the article is available only by subscription, I briefly review it for you below.

CoQ10 is an antioxidant involved in cellular energy metabolism in mitochondria, the cell’s power plant. As a dietary supplement, it has been suggested for many uses, many of which have not been tested rigorously. The following are the uses of CoQ10 listed in the article that have been shown to be effective in randomized trials:

  • CoQ10 is helpful in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.
  • In patients with migraines, CoQ10 decreased the frequency of attacks and the duration of headaches.
  • In patients with chronic renal failure, CoQ10 improved renal function and, in some patients, decreased the need for dialysis.

The article also cited many more conditions in which CoQ10 was shown not to be helpful, or in which the studies were small, not randomized, inconclusive, or are ongoing. These conditions include congestive heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, drug abuse, ALS, Huntington’s disease and decreasing side effects of other medications. I would not recommend CoQ10 for any of these conditions until more evidence is found.

Finally, CoQ10 has been demonstrated to be safe in large studies, with no serious or bothersome adverse effects.