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Diabetes and Coenzyme Q10

This past week at the pharmacy, I was reviewing some micronutrient depletions with specific medication classes. I discovered something interesting, but first I would like to give a little background.

Many of our chronic diseases involve our metabolism. The efficiency of our metabolism is directly linked to how the mitochondria (the powerhouses) in our cells are functioning. If they are not functioning efficiently, our metabolism will be sluggish and we will suffer from many metabolic issues such as hormone imbalance, diabetes, and dyslipidemia, which will eventually lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

There is a cofactor called Coenzyme Q10 or ubiquinol that was discussed in a previous post. Coenzyme Q10 is an essential part of our metabolism. Our body naturally makes CoQ10, but production declines as we age. There are also MANY medications that deplete it. I also had another post explaining more about our metabolism if you would like to read more about it.

I would like to use this post to explain the link between Coenzyme Q10, metabolic disorders, and the medications used to treat these disorders.

I would like to preface this post by saying:


So, as I was reviewing the medications used to treat Type 2 diabetes, I had an epiphany.

Every. Single. Medication. Used. To. Treat. Diabetes. Can. Deplete. Coenzyme Q10.

Why is this important?

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder caused by lifestyle factors. This is a known issue. Usually, the types of foods that we eat, the lack of exercise, and toxins in our environment can lead to metabolic disorders and eventually Type 2 diabetes.

Coenzyme Q10 is an important cofactor for the functioning of our mitochondria – the powerhouse that drives our metabolism. Metabolism – metabolic disorders…see a connection?

Conventional medicine is giving medications (usually multiple medications) to treat Type 2 diabetes that deplete CoQ10. As more medications are added to the treatment plan, more CoQ10 is depleted and subsequently the metabolic disorder progresses.

Not to mention, the guidelines to treat Type 2 diabetes patients state to also put the patient on a statin (which depletes CoQ10) and a blood pressure medication called an ACE-inhibitor or Angiotensin Receptor Blocker…which also depletes…You guessed it! COENZYME Q10.

Conventional medicine can treat the symptoms and make the lab numbers look better but can make the underlying cause WORSE and the disease will progress. That’s good for the manufacturers of diabetes medications, because they are assuring that the patient will be reliant on their products for the long haul. It’s what I was always told…diabetes is a progressive disease. It can be slowed down, but it can’t be stopped or reversed. Well. That is simply not true.

I believe the reason these diseases progress is that we (as healthcare providers) are not addressing the underlying causes and we are giving patients medications that disrupt essential functions in our body. Very few healthcare providers have real conversations with their patients about lifestyle modifications or supportive therapies with the medications that are being prescribed.

As healthcare providers, we are supposed to help our patients get better. We are supposed to offer guidance to promote health and wellness. Most of us probably wanted to be part of this profession to help people, but the medications, treatments, etc. that we are providing are making people worse. I don’t think this is our intention, but this kind of information is not taught in medical schools and pharmacy schools. I am so excited that there is more of a movement to push our healthcare system in this direction, though, but we have a long way to go.

How can this be?

When we are trying to help someone with a lifestyle induced metabolic disorder, why is the first instinct to give a medication (one that will eventually make the disease worse)? If the medication is prescribed, why aren’t we suggesting a CoQ10 supplement with it to support the body’s natural functions?

I am so frustrated by situations like this because I feel like the food industry is intentionally making people sick and the drug industry is keeping them just sick enough to keep feeding into the system. They make trillions of dollars off our sick, depressed, damaged bodies with prescription after prescription.

So…what do we do?

1. Incorporate more vegetables into our diet. Eat a plant-first diet. You can slowly work more fruits and veggies into your day to day.

  • If you usually eat one vegetable as a side to your meal, add another one.

  • Try different kinds. Pick a different vegetable once a week that you have never tried.

  • Find a new way to cook your veggies – roasted is one of my favorites (roasted Brussels sprouts are delicious).

  • Start with one meal a week and make it vegetarian with beans, legumes, quinoa, or other plant-based protein sources.

  • Eat more fruit. Eat a piece of fruit for dessert if you need something sweet.

2. Stop eating fast foods. You will probably save money and feel better if you stop eating fast foods. Invest in a good lunch box and take leftovers from your dinner the night before for your lunch the next day.

3. Drink more water. Before you reach for the sugary beverages (or even the artificially sweetened beverages) – pick water. Sugary drinks, even fruit juice will spike your blood sugar levels and can damage your cells.

4. Eliminate processed foods. Choose more whole foods that don’t need an ingredient label. If it looks like it was made in a chemistry lab, it is probably not good for our bodies. Whole foods are usually located on the outer edges of the grocery store. You shouldn't need the inner shelves except for certain items like beans, lentils and quinoa.

5. Move. Get up and move every 20 minutes. Stand up and stretch. Do some yoga poses. Take a walk during your lunch break. Just move.

6. If you are currently taking a medication for diabetes, a CoQ10 supplement would be a good idea. Ask your healthcare provider to look at the evidence of CoQ10 depletions with diabetes medications and recommend a dose for a CoQ10 supplement.

7. I usually also recommend berberine, curcumin, and a probiotic, but a pharmacist should check to see if there are any interactions with other medications that you take.

I’ve heard it said that eating the right foods is hard, but so is living with the consequences of eating the wrong ones. Exercising is hard, but so is not being able to move. Drinking more water is hard, but so is checking our blood sugar due to spikes from sugary drinks. Taking supplements is hard, but so is giving yourself insulin every day. Choose your hard.

Are you ready to PIVOT to functional health and wellness?

References (You can share with your healthcare provider)

Fakhrabadi M.A., Ghotrom A.Z., Mozaffari-Khosravi H., Nodoushan H.H., Nadjarzadeh A., Information R. Effect of Coenzyme Q10 on Oxidative Stress, Glycemic Control and Inflammation in Diabetic Neuropathy: A Double Blind Randomized Clinical Trial. Int. J. Vitam. Nutr. Res. 2014;84:252–260. doi: 10.1024/0300-9831/a000211. [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

Mantle D, Turton N, Hargreaves IP. Depletion and Supplementation of Coenzyme Q10 in Secondary Deficiency Disorders. Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2022 Dec 19;27(12):322. doi: 10.31083/j.fbl2712322. PMID: 36624950.

Testai L, Martelli A, Flori L, Cicero AFG, Colletti A. Coenzyme Q10: Clinical Applications beyond Cardiovascular Diseases. Nutrients. 2021 May 17;13(5):1697. doi: 10.3390/nu13051697. PMID: 34067632; PMCID: PMC8156424.

Zhang SY, Yang KL, Zeng LT, Wu XH, Huang HY. Effectiveness of Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int J Endocrinol. 2018 Sep 16;2018:6484839. doi: 10.1155/2018/6484839. PMID: 30305810; PMCID: PMC6165589.

Zozina VI, Covantev S, Goroshko OA, Krasnykh LM, Kukes VG. Coenzyme Q10 in Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases: Current State of the Problem. Curr Cardiol Rev. 2018;14(3):164-174. doi: 10.2174/1573403X14666180416115428. PMID: 29663894; PMCID: PMC6131403.

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