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By Nora Saul, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

Manager, Nutrition Services
Joslin Diabetes Center
Boston, MA

Created: 03/29/2011
Last Updated: 07/19/2012

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Q: I've heard there are benefits to taking the supplement coenzyme Q10 in conjunction with taking statins. If so, what are the potential benefits?

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a vitamin-like substance that is important for the functioning of the mitochondrial enzymes (the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the body, involved with energy production). CoQ10 can come from food sources and is produced by the body. Normal levels can decrease with age or with certain drugs, as well as from a number of diseases such mitochondrial or metabolic disorders, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson's disease, cancer and heart disease. In the case of deficiency due to a mitochondrial or metabolic disorder, there is evidence for providing replacement. Beyond these specific disorders, there is insufficient evidence to recommend wholesale supplementation with the coenzyme.

One suggested use of CoQ10 is for use with statins to reduce the risk of side effects from statins. In theory, the supplement can reduce the risk of rhabdomyolysis (muscle damage) and may be able to lessen the incidence of muscle and joint aches associated with statin use. However, there are no large-scale clinical trials supporting this hypothesis.

CoQ10, like other supplements, is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This means that the quantity, purity and strength of the supplement may vary from container to container. In addition there is no guarantee of efficacy.

All drugs have side effects, and CoQ 10 is no exception. For example, there is a possibility of hypoglycemia in people with diabetes. If you plan to take CoQ10 as an adjunct to your statins, or for any other reason, be sure and discuss it with your health care provider.