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CoQ10 and Macular Degeneration

In the first installment of this article series, I discussed why I choose to take the supplement CoQ10 along with my other eye-healthy vitamins and nutrients. CoQ10, also known as Coenzyme Q or ubiquinone, is ‘advertised’ as a supplement that is taken for blood circulation.

Supplements for optimal eye health

As mentioned in part one of this series, I was diagnosed with myopic macular degeneration, or MMD, about 13 years ago. While I was doing research on which supplements I wanted to take for optimal eye health, I ran across CoQ10 and it got me thinking about how those of us with macular degeneration have decreased choroidal and retinal blood flow to our eyes.1

What is CoQ10?

CoQ10, also known as Coenzyme Q or ubiquinone, is a compound that helps generate energy in all of the cells in our bodies. It helps oxygenate our cells and aids in circulation to keep cells alive and healthy. Our bodies do produce CoQ10 naturally, but levels tend to decrease as we age. This is where the degeneration of cells, including retinal cells, starts to occur. Because of this decrease in amounts of CoQ10 in our bodies, it's important to either eat foods rich in CoQ10 or supplement it in pill form (after discussing it with your doctor first of course).

Foods rich in CoQ10

  • Organ meats: Heart, liver and kidney.
  • Some muscle meats: Pork, beef and chicken.
  • Fatty fish: Trout, herring, mackerel and sardines.
  • Vegetables: Spinach, cauliflower and broccoli.
  • Fruit: Oranges and strawberries.
  • Legumes: Soybeans, lentils and peanuts.

CoQ10 study purpose and results

In 2009, a study was conducted by ivos, investigative ophthalmology and visual science, titled: Coenzyme Q10 in the Human Retina.2 The study was conducted to determine the concentration of CoQ10 in the human retina.

It was found that “CoQ10 levels in the retina can decline by approximately 40% with age. This decline may have two consequences: a decrease in antioxidant ability and a decrease in the rate of ATP synthesis in the retina. This decline may be linked to the progression of macular degeneration.”

Antioxidants help protect all our cells

It’s important to remember that antioxidants help protect all of the cells in our bodies from free radicals. Free radicals cause damage to cells and can lead to illness and expedition of the aging process. This isn’t good when dealing with a degenerative disease such as macular degeneration. Some foods that are high in antioxidants are berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries…), spinach, pecans, and even dark chocolate. You read that right, you have my permission to indulge in some dark chocolate covered berries today, yay!

Other things I learned about CoQ10

Other things I learned from this study:

  • CoQ10 plays an important role in oxidative metabolism and management by supporting the mitochondria in cells. In its reduced form, it acts as a lipid antioxidant. Oxidative metabolism is a chemical process in which oxygen is used to make energy from carbohydrates (sugars).
  • CoQ10 has the ability to collect oxygen from cells and recycle Vitamin E, making it a more effective lipid (fatty acid) antioxidant than Vitamin E and the carotenoids lycopene and beta carotene. Beta Carotene is the red-orange pigment found in plants and fruits, especially carrots and colorful vegetables like bell peppers that we all eat for eye health.
  • CoQ10 affects the expression of genes involved in human cell signaling, metabolism, and transport. This is necessary for uncoupling oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria, a process that must be strictly regulated to avoid the death of our healthy cells.
  • CoQ10 is found in nearly every tissue of the human body, including the lungs, heart, spleen, liver, kidney, pancreas, adrenal gland, blood, and brain, CoQ10 levels decline with age.
    • Because CoQ10 is found everywhere in the body (making it ubiquitous, hence the name ubiquinone) it’s believed to play a role in aging and the pathogenesis of many degenerative or chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
  • While doing the study, it was found that the retina contains relatively small amounts of CoQ10 despite the retina’s relatively high rate of oxidative metabolism. This suggests that eye function is sensitive to changes in CoQ10 concentrations.

Why isn’t this more well known?

After studying this research in greater depth and evaluating my own supplement choices, I’m really wondering why I’ve never read about the benefits of CoQ10 and macular degeneration. If it wasn't for a hunch, I wouldn't have ever started taking it and I wouldn't be researching it now. Even more so... I'm wondering why my retina specialist (and yours) haven't ever mentioned it. I will be asking mine about it during my next checkup for sure.

I’ve decided that taking CoQ10 is right for me and my eyes. I’m not here to tell anyone which supplements to take, as we all have specific needs and react differently to supplements and nutrients. However, CoQ10 may be something you, yourself, may want to look into more for your personal optimal eye health.

Knowledge is power,

Andrea Junge

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