Study Shows Coenzyme Q10 Slows Progressive, Functional Decline in
Parkinson's Disease Patients
In the first
study of its type, researchers at Emory University and nine other centers
nationwide have determined that a naturally occurring compound called
coenzyme Q10 can slow progressive deterioration associated with the
early stages of Parkinson's disease up to 44 percent. This is the first
time a study has show that any nutrient or vitamin might play a role
in slowing the progression of PD. The greatest benefits were seen in
motor skills and activities of daily living, such as walking, dressing,
feeding and bathing.
The results of this study
will be published in the Oct. 15 issue of the American Medical Association's
Archives of Neurology and will be discussed at the annual meeting
of the American Neurological Association in New York City, also on Oct.
"The study was designed to
test the hypothesis that high doses of coenzyme Q10 would slow the progression
of Parkinson's, as measured by movement difficulty or disability," says
Ray Watts, M.D., professor of neurology, Emory University School of
Medicine, and lead investigator of the Emory study. "We are very encouraged
with the results of this small trial, which consisted of 80 Parkinson's
patients nationwide. However, a larger, multi-centered, controlled trial
is still needed before this treatment can be recommended to patients
with a high degree of certainty."
Parkinson's disease is a
progressive disorder of the central nervous system affecting over one
million people in the United States. Symptoms include tremor, slowness
of movement and stiffness of muscles. Although certain medications,
such as levodopa or L-dopa, can reduce the symptoms of PD, they do not
slow the progressive deterioration in function.
Scientific evidence shows
that mitochondrial function is impaired in Parkinson's disease patients.
Mitochondria produce energy for the cells. Research also shows that
levels of coenzyme Q10, which the body uses to aid in energy production,
are reduced in the mitochondria of PD patients. In animal models of
PD, scientists have determined that coenzyme Q10 supplements can protect
the part of the brain affected by the disorder. "Because of these findings,
we've learned that supplementation of this nutrient, which is often
described as an antioxidant, plays a role in helping mitochondria to
function better and boost energy production in the cells of PD patients,"
says Dr. Watts.
At Emory, eight Parkinson's
disease patients took part in this study, which ended in May 2001. They,
like the rest of the participants nationwide, were randomly selected
to receive high doses of coenzyme Q10 (300, 600 or 1200 mg/day) or a
placebo four times a day. Participants had to be in the early stages
of the disease (one to three years following diagnosis) where medications,
such as L-dopa, were not yet needed for treatment. Because the participants
were only taking coenzyme Q10 and no other drugs, researchers felt they
were able to produce very pure results of the effects of this nutrient.
Participants remained in the trial for a maximum of 16 months, or until
they needed medications to treat the symptoms of the disease.
Participants were evaluated
and a number of clinical tests were performed prior to and during the
study to rate their motor abilities, activities of daily living, mental
function and mood. To determine the participants' progress, researchers
used the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale, which evaluates a patient's
abilities through a battery of tests, using a scale of zero-four. Lower
scores reflect less impairment and better function. At the halfway mark
of the study, the scores among the four groups clearly showed a difference.
The groups taking the lowest and intermediate dosages (300 and 600 mg/day)
had equivalent or lower scores than the placebo group, while the scores
for the group receiving the highest dosage (1200 mg/day) were substantially
lower. This pattern of disability reduction continued until the end
of the study. The benefit was seen in assessment of mental function
and mood, activities of daily living and motor skills.
"This is a very important
study with positive results for Parkinson's patients," says Dr. Watts,
a world-renown Parkinson's disease researcher. "But we are not at the
stage yet where we feel comfortable telling patients to go to their
local health food store and purchase coenzyme Q10 as a treatment for
the disease. Right now, we know this study shows vitamin-type therapy
may slow the progression of movement and motor disabilities associated
with the disease, but more studies are needed to determine the true
effects of the compound. Emory will be involved in some larger coenzyme
Q10 studies in the near future, in hopes of finding out these specific
Researchers found no safety
or tolerability concerns or problems with the administration of coenzyme
Jorge Juncos, M.D., associate
professor of neurology, Emory University School of Medicine, served
on the national steering committee for this study, helping to research
and write the paper.
Ten centers, including Emory,
took part in this study, which was funded by the National Institute
of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health.
All centers are members of the Parkinson Study Group, a non-profit,
North American organization consisting of Parkinson's disease and movement