CoenzymeQ10 can significantly delay the progression of Parkinson's disease, slowing the degeneration of brain cells, a UC San Diego-led team reports. Results of a new nationwide clinical trial show that CoenzymeQ10, a vitamin-like chemical, may be the first treatment that can fight the relentless degeneration caused by Parkinson's disease. This may prolong the period that Parkinson’s patients can carry on normal daily activities.
Patients who took CoenzymeQ10 performed 44 percent better on exams for Parkinson's disease symptoms for intellectual and physical function than study volunteers who did not receive CoQ10.
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder that afflicts more than 1 million Americans with muscle stiffness, trembling, slowed movement and poor balance. It appears to kill nerve cells in a brain region known as the substantia nigra, which produces dopamine, a biochemical key in physical movement.
Shults and his team found Parkinson's patients are low in CoQ10. The biochemical is made naturally in the body and is a coenzyme, aiding in metabolic processes associated with the production of energy in cells throughout the body. CoQ10 is one of 3 critical naturally occurring nutrients, any one or all of which may be depleted in a diseased patient - including CoQ10, D-Ribose, and Carnitine (specifically in the form of acetyl-l-carnitine for nerve cells) that help the cellular mitochondria produce energy for the cells of the body to properly function.
The investigators studied 80 volunteers at 10 medical centers across the nation, and over the course of 16 months randomly gave patients four daily doses of wafers containing either zero, 300, 600 or 1,200 milligrams of CoQ10. Eight months into the study, patients receiving the highest doses of Q10 already fared significantly better than did other volunteers. Lower doses also slowed the progression of Parkinson's, though much less effectively.
Shults emphasized the disease "never stopped progressing," still the more CoQ10 a patient received, the slower the progression.
In comparison, existing treatments for Parkinson's disease, such as the drug levodopa, decrease in effectiveness over time.
In the future, researchers wish to see whether CoQ10 actually prevents damage to nerve cells in a larger study with hundreds of patients, perhaps with even larger doses of the nutritional supplement. As a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link, we suggest that researchers explore a cocktail of supplements - CoQ10, Ribose, and Carnitine - all of which help the cells produce the necessary mitochondrial energy for healthy performance.
"This is a preliminary study that needs to be confirmed in larger populations before I can recommend people spend $1,500 to $2,500 a year on something that isn't proven to work," Clifford Shults, a neurologist the University of California in San Diego, explained.
The scientists presented their findings at the American Neurological Association's annual meeting. The research also appears in the Archives of Neurology.
Shults CW et al. Effects of CoenzymeQ10 in early Parkinson disease: evidence of slowing of the functional decline. Arch Neurol 2002 Oct;59(10):1541-50.