Wednesday, October 19, 2011

CoQ10 for Ultra-Endurance Athletes: 150mg of Ubiquinone Reduce Stress & Inflammation and Stabilize Cell Membranes in 52.4 Mile Torture from 640m to 3,393m!

Image 1: Susan Kokesh, blogger and the Crazy Running Mum at the Sierra Nevada ultra-endurance run a 52.4 miles "double marathon"
  in September 2010; I probably would not even have survived this torture - respect!
As a health conscious physcial culturist, you are probably aware that the vitaminesque nutrient CoQ10, which, due to its ubiquitous presence in all living beings, is also known as ubiqinone, plays a fundamental role in cellular bioenergetics. It is a necessary cofactor in the mitochondrial electron transport chain (i.e. your cell's way of "breathing", its respiratory chain) and is therefore essential for the production of ATP, the fundamental energy unit your cells are operating on. In that, CoQ10 works as a mobile redox agent that shuttles electrons and, interestingly, also protons (those little blue and red balls from Bohr's atom model ;-) in the electron transport chain. Within the health and fitness community, it is however better known for its antioxidant value, as in its reduced form, ubiquinol, it is a potent lipophilic (which means that it does not combine with fats) antioxidant, which is able to recycle and regenerate other antioxidants, such as vitamin E and vitamin C (Ernster. 1995). Moreover, CoQ10 participates in cell signaling and gene expression and has been used as a dietary supplement (among others) for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and statin-induced myopathies.

In view of its pluripotent influence on mammalian metabolism (on a side note: the "-10" in CoQ10 indicates the length of the isoprenoid sidechain that is attached to the common benzoquinone ring structure; the latter is unique and can be found in humans and a few other mammals only), it should thus not surprise you that Chavier Díaz-Castro and his collegues from the University of Granada report that the intake of 150mg of the natural version of CoQ10 (2,3-dimethoxy-5-methyl-6-decaprenyl-1,4-benzoquinone; natural = has trans configuration), profoundly modulated "the undesirable effects of the evoked oxidative stress and inflammation signaling during high-intensity" (Díaz-Castro. 2011).
Illustration 1: Supplementational protocol used in the study; CoQ10 was administered as 2,3-dimethoxy-5-methyl-6-decaprenyl-1,4-benzoquinone in powder form in 30mg capsules.
As you can see in illustration 1, the 20 highly trained male amateur athletes (all had run The Sierra Nevada ultra-endurance race in the previous 2 years), who participated in the study were not given the whole dose of 150mg of CoQ10 at once, but followed what I would like to call a "loading protocol" in the two days before the event. The placebo group received an identically looking product containing beer yeast, cellulose,
acacia, silica stearic acid, magnesium stearate, cellulose gum, and maltodextrin.

The total distance of The Sierra Nevada run is >50km. It is considered one of the hardest trials worldwide, mainly because the run, in the course of which the participants "climb" from 640m to a final altitude of  3,393m is almost on a continuous incline! A 5.5 hour torture, for which the CoQ10 supplemented athletes needed on average ~25min less than the subjects in the placebo group. In this study, the exercise performance was yet of negligible importance. What the scientists were really interested were the markers of oxidative damage and inflammation and as the following data shows, those were markedly influenced by the ingestion of this rather "mediocre" (compared to what you see some "health-gurus" advocate) amount of CoQ10.
Figure 1: Effects of CoQ10 supplementation of total bilirubin, triglycerides and urinary creatinine in 20 ultra-endurance runners (data calculated based on Díaz-Castro. 2011)
As you can see in figure 1, CoQ10 induced a significant reduction in urinary creatinine even before the race started (figure 1, left column). Moreover, there were significant differences in the bilirubin (indicates heme catabolism), triglycerides and (again) creatinine (indicates net protein catabolism):
Intense physical exercise resulted in an increase in net protein catabolism and an increase in
creatinine excretion in the PG after the physical test (p < 0.001); however, the urinary levels of creatinine were lower (p < 0.05 before and p < 0.001 after the physical test) in the CoQ10 treated group. Other interesting result was that although there was an increase in urinary creatinine in the CG, it was lower than in PG (38.77 ± 10.20 vs. 88.23 ± 11.21, p < 0.05). We also observed a decrease in the bilirubin concentrations in the CG after the run (p < 0.001) with lower values compared to PG group.
There were also significant differences in the inflammatory response, with (statistically significant, p<0.05) lower values of interleukin 6 (IL-6; -32%) and TNF-alpha (-23%) before the start of the race, and -22% lower TNF-alpha values after the "torture". Moreover, the basal hydroper-oxide content in the erythrocyte membranes, the scientists measured as an indicator of the degree of oxidative stress were lower before and after the exercise test, as the scientists call it.

Taken together, these results suggest that the addition of a small dose of CoQ10 to your supplemental regimen could induce unexpectedly profound cell-stabilizing benefits, of which it would yet be interesting to see how those translate into performance benefits, health and longevity, in the long run.