Coq10 and Diabetes: Can This Pricey Supplement Help Lower Blood Sugar?

Coenzyme Q10 (aka CoQ, coq10, and ubiquinone) is found throughout the body and is touted for its ability to lower blood sugar and fight off diabetes. But are costly supplements worth the money? Here's what you need to know.

Coq10 and DiabetesSome studies suggest Coenzyme Q10 can reduce the risk of developing diabetes and some say maybe not. Be sure to discuss the research with your doctor before taking CoQ supplements.

costly supplements that could lower blood sugar worth the money, when you’re at risk of developing diabetes? Some studies suggest the answer is yes, while others will only say maybe and some say maybe not. Here’s what researchers know about CoQ supplementation, and what you should discuss with your doctor.

In its natural state, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ) helps your body produce energy and also serves as an antioxidant, preventing oxidative damage and destruction to otherwise healthy cells throughout the body.1 Studies suggest that oxidative stress plays a big role in the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes. At the same time, research performed in recent years has linked CoQ deficiency to a number of disease processes in the body, including that of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Although your body makes its own CoQ, production slows down with age, resulting in chronically lower blood levels.2

The Diabetes Connection

Low blood levels of CoQ are associated with insulin resistance and higher levels of blood sugar, important factors in the development of prediabetes and diabetes. In fact, reduced blood levels of CoQ are often found when people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. These low levels of CoQ contribute to vascular injury, which in turn leads to other health problems that are often associated with diabetes, such as high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.2

Food vs. Supplements

Some foods provide very small, nontherapeutic amounts of CoQ. These include meat, poultry, fatty fish, such as herring and rainbow trout; soybean and canola oils; roasted peanuts, pistachio nuts and sesame seeds; broccoli, cauliflower, oranges and strawberries, and eggs.  When it comes to cooking vegetables and eggs, more CoQ is preserved when these foods are steamed or boiled than when they are cooked in fat. That’s because CoQ dissolves into fat, so it leaches out into cooking oils and other fats that may be discarded after cooking. 3

Supplements, on the other hand, supply much higher amounts of CoQ than are available through diet. Therapeutic amounts generally range from 100 to 300 mg a day, and higher doses have been used under medical supervision for research and supervised treatment conditions of a variety of health conditions.3 So, the question is: Can CoQ supplements alleviate the oxidative stress or “burden” on body cells that is evident in prediabetes and reduce insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels?

Research Results

A study published in a 2017 issue of the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research.4 found that blood sugar and insulin resistance were significantly lowered in prediabetic patients who took 200 mg supplements daily for 12 weeks, in addition to making diet and other lifestyle changes, when compared to patients who made similar lifestyle changes but did not take the supplement.  A collaborative study between Australian and American researchers published in a 2018 issue of the online science journal eLIFE5 confirmed that increasing the amount of COQ in cells may prevent or reverse insulin resistance.

But while researchers have found CoQ supplements to be effective, more large-scale and longer-term studies are necessary before medical experts can determine exactly who will benefit from supplementation, in what form and at what dose. Another important takeaway from the Australian-American study is that only a small percentage of COQ is actually absorbed from oral supplements, so they are not the most efficient or effective way to deliver COQ to cells throughout the body. These researchers suggest that future studies focus on developing alternative methods of delivery that will be more effective.

The Final Word (For Now)

Although CoQ supplements are readily available without a prescription, and doses of up to 1,200 mg/day for up to at least 16 months are considered safe for most people, it’s important to speak with your doctor before taking supplements. Your doctor can tell you if CoQ is safe for you, how you should take it, in what form, and at what dose. Before making any recommendations, your doctor may want to first determine if you are CoQ deficient and check to be sure supplements will enhance, rather than interfere with, any other medications or supplements you may be taking. And while CoQ10 supplements are generally considered safe, side effects such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, headache and allergic rash have been reported in various studies and some drug interactions have been found that require medical supervision, particularly with anticoagulant medication such as warfarin (Coumadin).2

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