Several small clinical studies found that Coenzyme Q10/CoQ10/ubiquinol supplementation may have potential benefits in different cancer types such as breast cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, melanoma and liver cancer by either reducing the levels of inflammatory cytokine markers in the blood, improving quality of life, reducing treatment side-effects such as cardiotoxicity, reducing recurrence or improving survival. Hence, taking Coenzyme Q10/CoQ10 rich foods may be possibly beneficial for these cancer patients. The results need to be validated in larger studies.
What is Coenzyme Q10/Co-Q10?
Coenzyme Q10 (Co-Q10) is a chemical made naturally by our body and is needed for the growth and maintenance. It has strong antioxidant properties and also helps to provide energy to the cells. The active form of Co-Q10 is called ubiquinol. With age, Co-Q10 production in our body declines. The risk of many diseases, especially during old age have also been found to be associated with the decline in the Coenzyme Q10 (Co-Q10) levels.
Coenzyme Q10/Coq10 Food Sources
Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 may also be obtained from foods such as:
- Fatty fishes such as salmon and mackerel
- Meats such as beef and pork
- Vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower
- Nuts such as peanuts and pistachios
- Sesame seeds
- Organ meats such as chicken liver, chicken heart, beef liver etc.
- Fruits such as strawberries
Apart from natural foods sources, Coenzyme-Q10/CoQ10 is also available as dietary supplements in the form of capsules, chewable tablets, liquid syrups, wafers and also as intravenous injections.
General Health Benefits of Coenzyme Q10/Co-Q10/Ubiquinol
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is known to have a wide range of health benefitsFollowing are some of the general health benefits of Coenzyme Q10 (Co-Q10) :
- May help reduce the risk of heart diseases
- May help reduce migraine
- May be good for the brain and help reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases
- May help treat infertility
- May help reduce cholesterol
- May help improve physical performance in some people with muscular dystrophy ( a group of diseases that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass).
- May help prevent diabetes
- May stimulate the immune system
- May protect the heart from damage caused by certain chemotherapy drugs
Some studies also indicate that high Coenzyme Q10 levels may provide benefits related to reduced risk of certain diseases including some cancer types.
Side-Effects of Coenzyme Q10/Ubiquinol
Taking Coenzyme Q10/CoQ10 rich foods is generally safe and tolerable. However, excess use of Coenzyme Q10 may cause some side effects including:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
Some people also reported other side-effects of Coenzyme Q10 such as allergic skin rashes.
Coenzyme Q10/Ubiquinol and Cancer
Coenzyme Q10 has garnered some interest in the scientific community as older people and people with medical conditions generally had lower levels of CoQ10. Since cancer was also prevalent among older people and the risk of cancer increased with age, it led to different studies to evaluate what effects this enzyme can really have on the body. Below are the examples of some studies carried out to evaluate the association between Coenzyme Q10 and cancer. Let us quickly glance at these studies and find out whether intake of Coenzyme Q10/CoQ10 rich foods may benefit cancer patients or not.
Co-Q10/Ubiquinol use in Breast Cancer Patients
Co-Q10/Ubiquinol use may have benefits of Reducing Inflammatory Markers in Breast Cancer Patients
In 2019, a study was done by the researchers from the Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences in Iran to evaluate the potential effects/benefits that Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10)/ubiquinol supplementation can have on breast cancer patients. Chronic Inflammation is known to increase tumor growth. Hence, they first tested the impact/benefit of CoQ10/ubiquinol supplementation on certain inflammatory markers such as cytokines Interleukin-6 (IL6), Interleukin-8 (IL8) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in the blood of 30 breast cancer patients receiving tamoxifen therapy and 29 healthy subjects. Each group was divided into two with one set of breast cancer patients and healthy subjects receiving placebo and the other set receiving 100 mg CoQ10 once a day for two months.
The study found that CoQ10 supplementation reduced IL-8 and IL-6 serum levels but not VEGF levels compared to placebo. (Zahrooni N et al, Ther Clin Risk Manag., 2019) Based on the results of this very small cohort of patients, CoQ10 supplementation could be effective in reducing inflammatory cytokine levels, thus reducing the consequences of inflammation that is caused in breast cancer patients.
Co-Q10/Ubiquinol use may have benefits of Improving Quality of Life of Breast Cancer Patients
For this same cohort of 30 breast cancer patients aged 19-49 who were on Tamoxifen therapy, split between 2 groups, one taking 100 mg/day of CoQ10 for two months and the other group on placebo, the researchers assessed the impact on quality of life (QoL) of the breast cancer patients. After analyzing the data, the researchers concluded that CoQ10 supplementation had significant effect on physical, social, and mental conditions of women with breast cancer. (Hosseini SA et al, Psychol Res Behav Manag., 2020 ).
Co-Q10/Ubiquinol use may have benefits of Improving Survival in Patients with end-stage Cancer
A study done by N Hertz and R E Lister from Denmark evaluated the survival of 41 patients with end-stage cancer who received supplements of coenzyme Q(10) and a mixture of other antioxidants such as vitamin C, selenium, folic acid and beta-carotene. The primary cancers of these patients were located in the breast, brain, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, oesophagus, stomach, colon, prostate, ovaries and skin. The study found that the median actual survival was more than 40% longer than the median predicted survival. (N Hertz and R E Lister, J Int Med Res., Nov-Dec)
The researchers concluded that administration of Coenzyme Q10 with other antioxidants may have potential benefits of improving the survival of patients with end stage cancers and suggested larger clinical trials for validating these benefits.
Coenzyme Q10/Ubiquinol may have benefits of Reducing Anthracyclines-induced Cardiotoxicity Side-effects in children with Leukemia and Lymphoma
A study done by the researchers from the Medical-Surgery Institute of Cardiology, 2nd University of Naples in Italy evaluated the impact of Coenzyme Q10 therapy on cardiotoxicity in 20 children with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia or Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma treated with Anthracyclines. The study found a protective effect of Coenzyme Q10 on cardiac function during therapy with ANT in these patients. (D Iarussi et al, Mol Aspects Med., 1994)
Using Recombinant interferon alpha-2b and coenzyme Q10 as a postsurgical adjuvant therapy for melanoma may Reduce Recurrence
A study done by the researchers from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy evaluated the effect of 3-year treatment with low-dose recombinant interferon alpha-2b and coenzyme Q10 on recurrence after 5 years in patients with stage I and II melanoma (a type of skin cancer) and surgically removed lesions. (Luigi Rusciani et al, Melanoma Res., 2007)
The study found that long-term use of an optimized dose of recombinant interferon alpha-2b along with coenzyme Q10 significantly decreased the rates of recurrence and had negligible adverse effects.
Low Serum levels of Coenzyme Q10 may be associated with Higher Inflammatory Markers post Surgery in Liver Cancer
In a study done by the researchers from the Taichung Veterans General Hospital and Chung Shan Medical University, Taichung in Taiwan, they evaluated the association between the levels of coenzyme Q10 and inflammation in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) post surgery. The study found that liver cancer patients had significantly lower levels of coenzyme Q10 and significantly higher levels of inflammation after surgery. Hence, the researchers concluded that coenzyme Q10 may be considered as an antioxidant therapy for liver cancer patients with higher inflammation post surgery. (Hsiao-Tien Liu et al, Nutrients., 2017)
Low Levels of Coenzyme Q10 may Increase the Risk of Specific Cancers
A study done by the researchers from the Yuzuncu Yil University, Van in Turkey found that lung cancer patients had significantly lower levels of Coenzyme Q10. (Ufuk Cobanoglu et al, Asian Pac J Cancer Prev., 2011)
Another study done by the researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa evaluated the association of plasma CoQ10 levels with breast cancer risk, in a case-control study of Chinese women within the Shanghai Women’s Health Study (SWHS), and found that those with exceptionally low levels of CoQ10 were associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. (Robert V Cooney et al, Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev., 2011)
Quality of life impact is a significant area of research because it affects almost all aspects of the patients’ life. Many cancer survivors have poor quality of life and are dealing with issues of fatigue, depression, migraines, inflammatory conditions etc. Taking Coenzyme Q10/CoQ10/ubiquinol rich foods could potentially benefit by stimulating a patient’s oxidative metabolism thus giving the patient more energy at a cellular level. Different small clinical trials evaluated the impact of Coenzyme Q10/CoQ10/ubiquinol supplementation in patients with different types of cancers. They found that CoQ10/ubiquinol supplementation had potential benefits in different cancer types such as breast cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, melanoma and liver cancer. CoQ10 has shown positive effects (benefits) by reducing the levels of inflammatory cytokine markers in the blood and improving quality of life in breast cancer patients, reducing treatment side-effects such as anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity in children with leukemia and lymphoma, reducing recurrence in melanoma patients or improving survival in patients with end-stage cancers. However, much larger clinical trials are needed to form an actual conclusion on the effectiveness/benefits of Coenzyme Q10/CoQ10/ubiquinol.
Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer.Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.