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CoQ10 Helps the Immune System and Brain Function
by A.S. Gissen

Coenzyme Q (CoQ), also known as ubiquinone, is a naturally occurring substance classified as a fat-soluble quinone with characteristics that are common to vitamins. Coenzyme Q is one of the substances in the chain of reactions which produces energy in the metabolism of food. Because of the necessity of CoQ for energy production, almost every cell of a living organism contains CoQ. CoQ helps drive the mitochondrial energy production vital to all body functions. The functioning of all organs depends on each cell having adequate levels of CoQ to provide life-sustaining energy.

CoQ and Immune Function

Vitamin and nutritional deficiencies are well known to be common causes of immuno-deficiencies. Persons having nutritional and vitamin deficiencies have impaired cell–mediated immunity, as well as decreased microbicidal activity of immune cells and increased susceptibility to infections. Being vitally important to the generation of cellular energy, it is not surprising that deficiencies of CoQ10 result in suppression of the immune system. However, the result of supplement CoQ10 is quite provocative, as it produces a significant enhancement of the immune system in both normal and immuno-depressed animals.

"Results indicate that CoQ is an important component ... for the optimal function of the immune system."

In 1970, it was first reported that CoQ6 and CoQ10, when administered to rats, significantly enhanced immune cells' ability to kill bacteria, as well as elevated their antibody response. By 1982, more than half a dozen studies had documented significant immunological enhancement following the administration of CoQ10. These results included a decreased number of tumors and increasing the number of survivors, following exposure to carcinogens; an increased number of survivors following exposure of rats to a leukemia-inducing virus, which interestingly caused a CoQ deficiency after infection; and reversed an age-related decrease in CoQ levels in the thymus of aging animals. The immune-poteniating activity of CoQ was paralleled by a protection of immune-suppressed animals against otherwise lethal infections. When compared to other antioxidants like vitamin E, it was found that these immune-enhancing properties were specific to CoQ, as the antioxidants did not stimulate the immune system to an equal degree. A similar activity of CoQ10 was also found in human patients with conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, with CoQ10 administration resulting in significantly enhanced levels of immunoglobulins (IgG).

At a 1981 conference of Coenzyme Q, several reviews were presented that documented the significant role that CoQ has on immune function. The conclusions of these researchers were that:

  1. In extensive studies, using many experimental models which evaluated various parameters of immune function (phagocytic rate, antibody level, cancer, viral and parasitic infections), a role of CoQ as an immunomodulating agent was established.
  2. During some infections and aging, an organism develops a Coenzyme Q-enzyme deficiency.
  3. Results indicate that CoQ is an important component, probably at the mitochondrial level, for the optimal function of the immune system.
  4. The lack of toxicity, as demonstrated in clinical and experimental tests, indicates that CoQ10 is an appropriate candidate for clinical application in disease states where the immune system is not functioning at an optimal level.
  5. Research indicates that tumors, infections and some of the immunity-related "diseases of aging" should be included in a new entity, "diseases of bioenergetics."

Co Q10 and Aids

While the above results are certainly provocative, the most exciting immune related research on CoQ10 has been in the area of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). In the early 1990s, a series of reports were published showing that CoQ10 deficiency could play a role in its development. These investigations were begun after the observation that many AIDS patients have significant heart-function failure, similar to persons with CoQ10 deficiency-related heart failure. Subsequent measurements of blood CoQ10 levels revealed that Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) positive patients who were asymptomatic had normal levels of CoQ10, AIDS-related Complex (ARC) patients had significantly lower levels, and full blown AIDS patients had the lowest.

Thus, AIDS was associated with CoQ10 levels that were severely and significantly depressed, while HIV positive persons without symptoms had normal levels that declined as they progressed to ARC, and further declined as they developed AIDS. Based on these investigations, a small pilot study was begun to investigate the effects of CoQ10 supplementation on patients with ARC and AIDS. The results of this study showed that ARC patients on CoQ10 therapy remained free of opportunistic infections and didn't progress to AIDS over a period of more than four years. The authors concluded that this excellent clinical response was possibly because, "…the delicate equilibrium between host and virus has been tipped in favor of the host in this disease state through the use of oral CoQ10."

CoQ and Brain Function

It is well established that deficiencies of myocardial CoQ10 results in derangements of cardiac energy production, eventually leading to cardiac cell death. This is the biochemical basis for the success in using CoQ10 in cardiomyopathy. Recent evidence now shows that a similar mechanism may be involved in degenerative brain disorders. In the case of Parkinson's disease, research has shown that deficiencies in CoQ10-dependent enzymes have been found. Attempts to improve the mental functions in Alzheimer's patients have been very encouraging, with reversals of mental deterioration being documented in several studies, including those using genetically confirmed Alzheimer's patients. Although these preliminary studies await confirmation, it is not surprising that CoQ10 deficiencies lead to cellular energy deficiencies.

Reprinted with permission from Nutritional News, Vitamin Research Products.

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