Fitness, CoQ10 and Statins

Fitness, Ageing, CoQ10 and Statins

Attention elderly marathon runners (and those of you with more modest fitness goals).  Do you seem to be running out of gas?  If so, you may be experiencing the effects of a decrease in levels of a vital substance called CoEnzyme Q10, the cause of which may be either age-related, diet-related and/or drug-related.  CoQ10 is an essential antioxidant particularly linked to cellular energy. So if you’re old enough to remember what a spark plug is, you’re old enough to realize that yours may not be firing 100%.

Research shows that our muscles need a good supply of CoQ10 to cope with the stress of aerobic exercise (Richard Deichmann MD et al.)  Sometimes we forget that the heart is also a muscle, one where this enzyme is a particularly important player.

Less Bang for Your Buck – Statin Side Effects

Many older people are prescribed pharmaceutical drugs which lower levels of CoQ10.  Few realize that this is one of the main side effects of the class of drugs called statins which are used to lower cholesterol. Low CoQ10 levels are the main reason so many suffer from muscle pain when taking these drugs.  In a 2013 study published in the journal of the American College of Cardiology, Dr John Thyfault from the University of Missouri reported that when it came to exercise, statin users were getting much less “bang for their buck”. In fact, the cells of the statin users lost energy as a result of exercising during a 12 week study on aerobic fitness   in people at risk of developing metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes).  In contrast, non-statin-users improved 13%. This result is a cause for concern, as it now appears fairly likely that statins make it difficult to improve your fitness from exercise, and as Dr Thyfault points out, low aerobic fitness is one of the best predictors of premature death.  Statins are a class of drug where the risk-benefit analysis needs to be carefully done for each patient.

Read more about statins and exercise from the NY Times blog here:

…and the original research here:

Getting into CoQ10 Foods

So where do we get CoQo10?  While a healthy young body makes much of its own, it’s an ability that decreases with age.  By the time you’re 75 you’re lucky to be making half what you made at age 20.  In your early years your diet contributes around 25-35% of your CoQ10 requirement, especially if you eat seafood and animal protein. The highest natural sources of CoQ10 include fatty fish like sardines, organ meats and indeed most other protein foods. Certain vegetables contain CoQ10 but in lesser amounts.  Think mushrooms, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, lentils.  And also think raw or lightly steamed when it comes to food preparation. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, CoQ10 levels are depleted significantly by frying.

Regular consumption of such foods would have been a part of our ancestral diets – the type of “paleo” diets which are currently undergoing a revival.  Could the restoration of CoQ10 levels partly explain their popularity?  CoQ10 increases energy and generally makes people feel much better.  It’s not hard to imagine that the average Western diet might be deficient in CoQ10.  According to cardiologist Dr Stephen Sinatra, the diet of the average American only provides around 2-5mg daily. Evidence-based therapeutic doses prescribed by such health practitioners can be in the range of 100-300mg or even higher.  The number of people taking advantage of supplementation with CoQ10 (also known as ubiquinol) is increasing dramatically, which makes sense when you consider the age-related decline in production.  Make sure you discuss this issue with a health practitioner who understands the importance of CoQ10.

Read research of Dr Deichmann et al on the effects of statin-induced depletion of CoEnzyme Q10 here:

Here’s how they prepare delicious sardines in Peru without cooking:

If the subject of raw fish either interests or worries you, read a more extensive report on the science of marinating raw fish (ceviche) here:




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