Coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinone, is ubiquitous in human tissues, although its level is variable (1). As I’ll discuss in this article, CoQ10 not only is important when it comes to thyroid health, but it also plays an important role in adrenal health, and some studies show that it can help with other conditions. After reading this you should have a better understanding as to why some people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions can benefit from supplementing with CoQ10.
So what is the function of CoQ10? The primary biochemical action of CoQ10 is as a cofactor in the electron-transport chain, in the series of redox reactions that are involved in the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) (2). As most cellular functions are dependent on an adequate supply of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), CoQ10 is essential for the health of virtually all human tissues and organs (2). In addition to its well-established function as a component of the mitochondrial respiratory chain, CoQ10 also functions in the reduced form (ubiquinol) as an antioxidant (3). Ubiquinol protects membrane phospholipids and serum low-density lipoproteins from lipid peroxidation, as well as mitochondrial proteins and DNA from free-radical induced oxidative damage (3). Some studies suggest that as people age, decreases in CoQ10 content may occur in mitochondria and that decreases of CoQ10 below the physiological levels can potentially affect mitochondrial respiratory function (4).
CoQ10 In Hyperthyroid and Hypothyroid Conditions
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are associated with enhanced oxidative stress involving enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants (5). Hyperthyroidism is especially linked with reduced circulating levels of CoQ10 (6). A study looked at the circulating levels of CoQ10 in both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid conditions, and found that these levels are higher in people with hypothyroidism (7). This same study shows that the values of CoQ10 in hyperthyroid patients are among the LOWEST in different human diseases. In addition, another study shows that thyroid hormones have a profound effect on mitochondrial oxidative activity, and that hyperthyroid muscular tissues undergo several biochemical changes that predispose them to free radical-mediated injury (8). Yet another study confirmed that serum CoQ10 levels in hyperthyroidism were significantly lower than that of euthyroid subjects, while in hypothyroidism, serum CoQ10 levels did not show any significant difference from that of euthyroid subjects (9).
These studies would suggest that there is a greater need for CoQ10 supplementation in people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease. Truth to be told, when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease I wasn’t told to take CoQ10. And so I can’t say that taking CoQ10 is essential for someone looking to restore their health back to normal. However, based on these studies it’s probably a good idea for people with hyperthyroid conditions to consider taking CoQ10.
This especially is true for those people with hyperthyroid conditions who are on beta blockers. Numerous studies have shown that beta blockers such as Propranolol can inhibit mitochondrial CoQ10 enzymes (10) (11). As a result, anyone who is taking beta blockers might want to consider taking CoQ10. In addition to beta blockers, it is well known that statins (cholesterol lowering medication) also interferes with the synthesis of CoQ10 (12). And so people taking statins might also want to consider taking CoQ10. In fact, one study showed that CoQ10 supplementation prevents both plasma and platelet CoQ10 decrease, without affecting the cholesterol lowering effect of the drug (13).
CoQ10 and Adrenal Health
While thyroid hormone levels have an important role in modulating CoQ10 levels, some studies also show evidence that the adrenals can play a role in CoQ10 production. One study showed that CoQ10 levels were significantly lower in isolated hypoadrenalism than in patients with adrenal hyperplasia and multiple pituitary deficiencies (14). The same study concluded that secretion of adrenal hormones in some way relate to CoQ10 levels.
CoQ10 and Other Conditions
In addition to playing a role in thyroid and adrenal health, CoQ10 is also important for the optimal health of other areas of the body. There are many studies which talk about the role of CoQ10 in cardiac disease and hypertension. One study mentioned that significant improvement has been observed in clinical and hemodynamic parameters and in exercise tolerance in patients given adjunctive CoQ10 in doses from 60 to 200 mg daily in the various trials conducted in patients of heart failure, hypertension, ischemic heart disease and other cardiac illnesses (15). The same study stated that CoQ10 has been found to be an independent predictor of mortality in congestive heart failure. Another study demonstrated that the addition of coenzyme Q10 to conventional therapy significantly reduces hospitalization for worsening of heart failure and the incidence of serious complications in patients with chronic congestive heart failure (16). Yet another study showed that Coenzyme Q10 administered orally has favorable actions in the described cardiovascular conditions and appears to be safe and well tolerated in the adult population (17). However, the same study warned us that CoQ10 should not be recommended as monotherapy or first-line therapy in any disease state. With regards to high blood pressure, one study concluded that CoQ10 has the potential in hypertensive patients to lower systolic blood pressure by up to 17 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by up to 10 mm Hg without significant side effects (18).
Clinical studies also show that CoQ10 supplementation might help with certain neurodegenerative diseases (19). This includes Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s disease, Friedereich’s ataxia, and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease.
In summary, CoQ10 plays a very important role in the body, as it is involved in the synthesis of ATP, and is essential for the health of every tissue and cell in the body. It also plays a role as an antioxidant. With regards to thyroid health, CoQ10 is frequently deficient in those people with hyperthyroid conditions, and its synthesis can also be interfered with by certain medications, such as beta blockers and statins. However, since hypothyroid conditions are also associated with enhanced oxidative stress then it also makes sense for some people with hypothyroidism to take this as well. In addition, the adrenal hormones also relate to CoQ10 levels, and CoQ10 plays an important role in cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and neurodegenerative conditions.