Several weeks ago, a patient made an offhanded remark that the coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) supplement he is taking seemed to give him energy and helped pull him out of depression.
This was not surprising since I've known that CoQ10 supplements help with heart disease, a condition which he suffered from.
But his other comment that it seemed to make him happier caught me by surprise.
CoQ10 for depression? Hmm... I did not think that CoQ10 would directly help with depression.
Sure, if CoQ10 reduced his symptoms of heart disease and got his heart pumping blood better, he should feel better.
But I wondered. Could CoQ10 directly help with depressive symptoms? Or was the benefit of taking CoQ10 all in his head?
I dug a bit deeper and here's what I've found...
It has been long suspected that inflammation is a common pathway involved in many diseases.
It has been shown to be the case for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease and arthritis, just to name three of them. This fact is not a new discovery and most experts agree that an excessively active inflammatory process is a major culprit.
New research studies suggest that this might be the case for major depression as well. What this means is that people suffering from major depression might have higher levels of oxidative stress and a lower levels of antioxidants in their body.
CoQ10 is a potent natural antioxidant that the body produces. Could there be a link between depression and lower levels of CoQ10? That's what this research team wanted to determine.
They compared the CoQ10 blood levels of 35 volunteers suffering from depression and 22 others who did not.
They measured the severity of their depression using a standardized scale and also recorded down if they also suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome.
Here's what their study revealed.
Those volunteers who suffered from depression had significantly lower blood CoQ10 levels than those who do not. But the most surprising fact was that half of the depressed subjects had CoQ10 levels that were lower than even the lowest levels found in healthy volunteers.
Moreover, those volunteers who had both treatment resistant depression and chronic fatigue syndrome had significantly lower CoQ10 levels than those who just suffered from depression. (It is also shown that CoQ10 supplementation helped with fatigue symptoms in individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis.)
As a note, there is no correlation between CoQ10 levels and the severity of depression. That is, you cannot determine how depressed a person is by seeing how low his CoQ10 levels were. All you could say is that if a person is depressed, we can expect his or her CoQ10 levels to be lower than usual.
Here's the reference to this study.
It means that major depression is linked with low CoQ10 blood levels. However, this study does not show whether lower CoQ10 levels causes depression or that depression causes low CoQ10 levels.
It is even plausible that a third unknown factor causes depression AND lower CoQ10 levels. Of course, more study will need to be done to figure this out.
My guess is that low CoQ10 levels doesn't cause depression. So you might logically ask, why bother to take CoQ10 then? Fair question.
But here's the critical fact that must not be overlooked on why depressed individuals may want to consider taking a CoQ10 supplement.
In depression, individuals have a higher risk of suffering from heart disease and heart failure. And a low CoQ10 level is a risk factor for these two heart conditions.
And if you suffer from heart disease, you are likely to take a cholesterol lowering drug (statin's), which further lowers CoQ10 levels.
If you piece together this scenario, it seems that taking a CoQ10 supplement might be a reasonable choice.
Now the next question is what is the correct dose to take?
Unfortunately, this study does not offer any insight into the most appropriate dose to use. Other studies also did not make any suggestions on a dosage to use for individuals suffering from depression.
But all hope is not lost.
From all the previous health benefits derived from taking CoQ10, it has a known effective dosage range for many other health conditions.
I can suggest following guidelines for using CoQ10 for treating heart disease. The typical dose would fall in the range of 100 mg to 400 mg daily (all the way up to 1,200 mg daily). I recommend taking 100 to 200 mg daily to start.
If you plan to take a higher dose of CoQ10, it is wise to discuss this choice with your doctor.
Thinking of taking coenzyme Q10 to help with your depression symptoms?
The jury is still out on this but if you wish, I could suggest trying it for a month or two.
Low plasma CoQ10 levels might not cause depression. It is very possible that depression causes low CoQ10 levels.
The result from this study, as suggested by the researchers, is that individuals suffering from depression could have potential indirect benefits from taking a CoQ10 supplement.
In my mind, taking CoQ10 supplement could be considered as a supportive measure. It is low-cost, safe and has no significant side effects or drug to drug interactions.
But don't forget that there are many other natural remedies that people use for helping with depression. Most of them have more direct evidence that they work. Check out the comprehensive review below.