Coenzyme Q10 is the first supplement shown to reduce heart failure deaths in a decade
Known as CoQ10, it is a vitamin-like supplement sold in health food shops
CoQ10 levels are decreased in the heart muscle of patients with heart failure
The pill – which is ‘a natural and safe substance’ – can be taken with statins and ‘should now be added to conventional treatment, say experts
Supplements of a popular energy-booster could halve death rates among people with heart failure, claim scientists.
The vitamin-like supplement coenzyme Q10 also reduces hospital admissions, says a major new study.
It is the first drug shown to save the lives of heart failure patients in more than a decade – and it is available over the counter in health food shops.
CoQ10 – which can be taken with statins – should now be added to conventional treatment for such patients, according to Professor Svend Aage Mortensen, who led the study.
Professor Mortensen said: ‘CoQ10 is the first medication to improve survival in chronic heart failure since ACE inhibitors and beta blockers more than a decade ago and should be added to standard heart failure therapy.
‘Other heart failure medications block rather than enhance cellular processes and may have side effects.
‘Supplementation with CoQ10, which is a natural and safe substance, corrects a deficiency in the body and blocks the vicious metabolic cycle in chronic heart failure.’
More than 900,000 Britons live with heart failure, which occurs when damage to the heart leaves it too weak to pump blood efficiently round the body. Around 100,000 a year are thought to die from it.
Heart failure causes symptoms of fatigue, breathlessness, increased heart rate and swollen ankles, and it can lead to serious complications.
CoQ10 is a substance similar to a vitamin which is made by the body and found in every cell, where it is used to produce energy.
However, CoQ10 levels are decreased in the heart muscle of patients with heart failure, who are often taking statin drugs that in turn deplete the body’s supplies still further.
Previous research has shown CoQ10 improves symptoms, functional capacity and quality of life in patients with heart failure with no side effects.
But until now, no trials have been big enough to prove that supplements increase survival.
The latest study from researchers at the University of Southern Denmark, Copenhagen randomly allocated 420 patients with severe heart failure from a number of countries to CoQ10 or placebo – a dummy drug – and followed them for 2 years.
CoQ10 halved the risk of patients suffering death or serious deterioration of symptoms, including hospitalisation.
Altogether 29 (14 per cent) patients in the CoQ10 group had such an event compared with 55 (25 per cent) patients in the placebo group.
CoQ10 also halved the risk of dying from all causes, which occurred in 18 (9 per cent) patients in the CoQ10 group compared to 36 (17 per cent) patients in the placebo group.
The substance is essential to survival and as well as being important for energy production in cells, it also functions as an antioxidant, which protects the body from damage caused by harmful molecules.
CoQ10 is naturally present in small amounts in a wide variety of foods, with higher levels in organ meats such as heart, liver, and kidney, as well as beef, soy oil, sardines, mackerel, and peanuts, but levels obtained through diet are insufficient to impact on heart failure.
CoQ10 is available over the counter as a food supplement and many doctors advise patients on statins to take it as well in order to offset the cell energy-depletion caused by statins.
But Professor Mortensen cautioned: ‘Food supplements can influence the effect of other medications including anticoagulants and patients should seek advice from their doctor before taking them.’
He added: ‘We have no controlled trials demonstrating that statin therapy plus CoQ10 improves mortality more than statins alone.’
Nevertheless, he supported the use of CoQ10 by heart patients on statins because of their effect on supplies of the naturally-occurring nutrient.
By Jenny Hope Medical Correspondent
PUBLISHED: 27 May 2013