At the present time, about one million people in the United States are struggling with Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative neurological disorder that causes stiffness, tremors, poor balance, and difficulty moving. Although individual symptoms may be treated, no treatment has been shown to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Researchers believe that coenzyme Q10 may offer hope.
Treatment Needed to Slow Functional Decline
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease usually develop slowly and become more severe over time. For example, a small tremor that begins in a single finger can eventually affect the whole hand and then the entire arm. As the symptoms get worse, patients with Parkinson’s disease have difficulty with everyday functions such as walking, feeding themselves, swallowing, and speaking. Although levodopa and other drugs are used to reduce symptoms, none have been proven to slow the progression of the disease.
Researchers Look at Coenzyme Q10
In a recent, multi-center clinical trial, researchers set out to determine if coenzyme Q10 could slow functional decline in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Coenzyme Q10 (also known as CoQ10, Q10, vitamin Q10, ubiquinone, or ubidecarenone) is a compound that is made naturally in the body. Coenzyme Q10 plays a role in producing energy needed for cell growth and maintenance and is also an antioxidant (a substance that protects cells from damaging chemicals in the body called free radicals.
The study, published in the October 15, 2002 issue of
Archives of Neurology
, was conducted at 10 movement disorder clinics under the direction of Clifford Shults, MD, of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the VA San Diego Healthcare System.
In the trial, 80 patients in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease were randomly assigned to receive either coenzyme Q10 four times a day at a dosage of 300, 600, or 1200 mg/day; others received a placebo (inactive) pill four times a day. The patients were evaluated with the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale at the screening, baseline, and 1-, 4-, 8-, 12-, and 16-month visits.
Results Look Promising, but Larger Study Needed
Subjects taking coenzyme Q10 appeared to be less disabled by their Parkinson’s over time compared to those taking the placebo. The benefit was greatest in those taking the largest dosage of coenzyme Q10. Patients taking coenzyme Q10 performed 44% better on the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale than those who took the placebo. Coenzyme Q10 also appeared to be safe and well tolerated. Subsequent clinical studies also have shown that coenzyme Q may provide a mild reduction in the progression of physical symptoms and dementia. Laboratory based studies have revealed that coenzyme Q may alleviate symptoms by preventing oxygen-induced damage to brain cells.
Although the results of these studies look promising, Dr. Shults cautions patients with Parkinson’s disease against taking high doses of coenzyme Q10 until a more definitive study is conducted. Dr. Shults also warns that versions of coenzyme Q10 sold in stores may differ from that used in the study and may lack potentially beneficial compounds.
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IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
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