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HeadWay, Issue #007 -- CoQ10: Energy in a pill?
February 21, 2004

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In this month's issue:

CoQ-10 – Energy in a pill?

Beyond the hype – migraine and brain lesions

Say what?! Enzymes and you

CoQ-10 – Energy in a pill?

Ok, when I'm talking about coenzyme Q-10, I shouldn't use the word “pill”, which people usually equate with DRUGS. CoQ10 really isn't a drug. CoQ10, also called ubiquinone, is in fact a small molecule that is found in most of the cells in your body. In 1957, a team led by Professor FL Crane discovered this small part of an enzyme that jump starts energy production in the cell. Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant as well. Because cells in the heart require a great deal of energy, much of the study of coenzyme Q10 has been about heart health, although there is a difference of opinion about how beneficial CoQ10 as a supplement is for heart disease (see links below).

However, a study in 2002 has brought hope to migraineurs. 32 patients with a history of migraine were given coenzyme Q10, 150mg per day. 61.3% of these patients experienced more than a 50% reduction in the number of days they had migraine symptoms – a significant improvement! In practical terms, after 3 months of treatment these patients went from about 7 migraines per month to 3 (what would you do with 4 more days a month?).

As is common with migraine treatment, it's unclear why CoQ-10 works. But as a generally safe, over the counter natural supplement, coenzyme Q10 is worth trying. Patients generally try between 150 and 300 mg per day. As with many supplements, it takes time before you'll see results – it's best to try for 3 months, keeping a headache diary before and during.

Related sources:
CoQ10 available from Vitacost
Article claiming there is no benefit for heart
Book by one of the major proponents for CoQ10 for the heart, Dr Stephen Sinatra
Migraine trial details

Beyond the hype – migraine and brain lesions

After all the hype in past weeks about migraine and brain lesions, I thought I'd better quickly address it. A recent study resulted in a flurry of media activity, but the most important facts are not always included. So here's a quick breakdown!

The study included 432 people between 30 and 60, about 30% had migraine without aura, about 37% had migraine with aura, and the rest were without migraine.

It's difficult to summarize the findings of the study in a few sentences, but there are a few things that are helpful to know. First, damage to brain tissue was found both in migraineurs and non-migraineurs. Second, the most damage was found in migraineurs with aura, especially with a high frequency of attacks (1 or more per month), and especially in women. Third, this means that some migraines may, over time, have some relation to damage in brain tissue. It does not mean that migraineurs are suffering from emotional or mental illness, or that a single migraine will do serious permanent damage to the brain.

Why this study is helpful to you now: This study is evidence that migraineurs are not suffering from an imaginary, unimportant disease. If you have migraine, you can be confident that this is a problem that should be taken seriously, not something that people should brush aside. As Dr Seymour Diamond commented after this study was released, this is also a reminder that you should seek treatment early, and not give up or just “deal with it”.

This study should not cause panic. Again, we're talking about long term issues which may effect non-migraineurs as well, and this study is only the beginning of the research into these problems. If anything, we should simply be glad that a good scientific study is opening the door to new study and better treatment in future months and years.

For more on this study, visit WebMD, or this very helpful article from the World Headache Alliance

Say what?! Enzymes and you

So what is an enzyme anyway? Enzymes are produced by cells. They're proteins or a collection of protein molecules, and they're job is to jump start chemical reactions within the cell. Enzymes are found in every organ of the body. Because enzymes are important in the chain of events that take place in the body, they come up often in migraine research.
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