Our bodies produce cholesterol to perform various essential functions. Most of the cholesterol needed for good health is produced by the liver, with the rest coming from diet. It’s essential for human life.
But too much cholesterol can put us at risk for heart disease and stroke. More than 70 million Americans have this problem. Some people can reduce high cholesterol levels by changing their diet and increasing exercise, but millions need the help of prescription medicine. Some of these cholesterol-lowering medications, including brand names like Lipitor®, Crestor®, and Zocor®, are collectively known as statins.
What many people don’t know is that statins also lower the body’s production of CoQ101 2 3 4, especially when you are prescribed a high dose. This leads to less Ubiquinol CoQ10 in the blood. The Ubiquinol form of CoQ10 serves several essential functions in the body, and even small decreases in Ubiquinol CoQ10 can disrupt the body’s ability to produce energy and lead to oxidative stress.
Reduced levels of Ubiquinol can also affect your LDL cholesterol. As the body’s strongest fat-soluble antioxidant, Ubiquinol can help defend against the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is a risk factor for certain vascular conditions. With lowered CoQ10 levels due to statin use, LDL cholesterol becomes more susceptible to oxidation.
How do Statins reduce Ubiquinol CoQ10?
There’s a lot to like about cholesterol-lowering statins and you should follow your doctor’s advice if you are prescribed one.
But how can a medicine so effective in lowering cholesterol also reduce a nutrient as important as CoQ10?
The answer is our bodies make cholesterol in much the same way as they make CoQ10. In fact, the same compounds used to make cholesterol are also used to create CoQ10. You can see the connection between cholesterol and CoQ10 production in the simplified illustration below.
Cholesterol and CoQ10 are made following the transformation of a compound called acetoacetyl-CoA to another organic compound called mevalonate. See how the process is impacted by statin medications.
Statins are good at stopping the first compound from transforming into the second, which is important to treating high cholesterol. Unfortunately, this means our bodies also have less of the compound needed to make CoQ10. Human studies have shown that even when taking standard doses for as few as three months, statin medicines can significantly lower the amount of both the conventional and Ubiquinol forms of CoQ10.
What Should Statin Users Do?
It’s fairly simple to address the issue of CoQ10 depletion caused by statin medication. Because CoQ10 is difficult to obtain through diet alone, consider taking a Ubiquinol CoQ10 dietary supplement (but, check with your health care provider before starting any vitamin or supplement).
Be sure to choose the form of CoQ10 that’s right for you:
Conventional CoQ10 is a good option for:
Young people under 40
Ubiquinol CoQ10 is a good option for:
Anyone over 40 and those taking statins
2 De Pinieux G, Chariot P, Ammi-Said M et al., Lipid-lowering drugs and mitochondrial functions: effects of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors on serum ubiquinone and blood lactate/pyruvate ratio. Br. J. Clin. Pharmacol. 1996;42(3):333–337.
3 Mortensen SA, Leth A, Agner E, Rohde M. Dose-related decrease of serum coenzyme Q10 during treatment with HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. Mol Aspects Med Suppl 1997;18: S137–144.
4 Watts GF, Castellucci C, Rice-Evans C et al., Plasma coenzyme Q (ubiquinone) concentrations in patients treated with simvastatin. J. Clin Pathol. 1993;46(11):1055–1057.