Coenzyme Q10 and Parkinson’s Disease

Study Suggests CoQ10 Slows Functional Decline in Parkinson’s Disease

FROM THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS AND STROKE (NINDS)

For release: Monday, October 14, 2002

Date Last Modified: Friday, JULY 30, 2009

Results of the first placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical trial of the compound coenzyme Q10 suggest that it can slow disease progression in patients with early-stage Parkinson’s disease (PD). While the results must be confirmed in a larger study, they provide hope that this compound may ultimately provide a new way of treating PD.

The phase II study, led by Clifford Shults, M.D., of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, looked at a total of 80 PD patients at 10 centers across the country to determine if coenzyme Q10 is safe and if it can slow the rate of functional decline. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and appears in the October 15, 2002, issue of the Archives of Neurology1.

“This trial suggested that coenzyme Q10 can slow the rate of deterioration in Parkinson’s disease,” says Dr. Shults. “However, before the compound is used widely, the results need to be confirmed in a larger group of patients.”

PD is a chronic, progressive neurological disease that affects about 500,000 people in the United States. It results from the loss of brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine and causes tremor, stiffness of the limbs and trunk, impaired balance and coordination, and slowing of movements. Patients also sometimes develop other symptoms, including difficulty swallowing, disturbed sleep, and emotional problems. PD usually affects people over the age of 50, but it can affect younger people as well. While levodopa and other drugs can ease the symptoms of PD, none of the current treatments has been shown to slow the course of the disease.

The investigators believe coenzyme Q10 works by improving the function of mitochondria, the “powerhouses” that produce energy in cells. Coenzyme Q10 is an important link in the chain of chemical reactions that produces this energy. It also is a potent antioxidant — a chemical that “mops up” potentially harmful chemicals generated during normal metabolism. Previous studies carried out by Dr. Shults, Richard Haas, M.D., of UCSD and Flint Beal, M.D., of Cornell University have shown that coenzyme Q10 levels in mitochondria from PD patients are reduced and that mitochondrial function in these patients is impaired. Animal studies have shown that coenzyme Q10 can protect the area of the brain that is damaged in PD. Dr. Shults and colleagues also conducted a pilot study with PD patients which showed that consumption of up to 800 mg/day of coenzyme Q10 was well-tolerated and significantly increased the level of coenzyme Q10 in the blood.

The NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and is the nation’s primary supporter of biomedical research on the brain and nervous system.

1Shults CW, Oakes D, Kieburtz K, Beal F, Haas R, Plumb S, Juncos JL, Nutt J, Shoulson I, Carter J, Kompoliti K, Perlmutter JS, Reich S, Stern M, Watts RL, Kurlan R, Molho E, Harrison M, Lew M, and the Parkinson Study Group. “Effects of coenzyme Q10 in early Parkinson disease: evidence of slowing of the functional decline.” Archives of Neurology, October 2002, Vol. 59, No. 10, pp. 1541-1550.