Q&A with Dan Lukaczer, ND

CoQ10 Lowers Blood Pressure
Q: I have a family history of high blood pressure and am trying to control my hypertension with natural treatments. In addition to its touted antioxidant benefits, can CoQ10 also reduce blood pressure?

A: Research dating to the 1980s suggests coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) may affect blood pressure. Results from these studies were positive, but the trials were small and often not controlled. An eight-week trial completed in 1999 certainly adds evidence to support the use of CoQ10 in hypertension and may provide a better understanding of its action.

In this trial, conducted at the Centre of Nutrition at the Medical Hospital and Research Centre in India, 59 men with hypertension were randomized to receive 120 mg per day CoQ10 or placebo. Both systolic and diastolic pressure decreased significantly in the CoQ10 group—an average of 16 and 9 points, respectively—while the placebo group saw no change.

The researchers also measured glucose and insulin levels and saw significant decreases in those, as well. There is increasing evidence that as many as 50 percent of individuals with hypertension may also be insulin resistant. When insulin is not working effectively, the body produces more, which leads to higher blood pressure. This trial suggests CoQ10 may improve the way insulin works and, as a beneficial side effect, lower blood pressure.

DHEA Long-term Safety Unknown
Q: As my grandchildren get older, so do I, and I want to ensure I have several good years still left to spend with them. I've heard that DHEA slows aging. What is considered a safe dose?

A: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a popular "anti-aging" supplement, is well supported by scientific research, including animal and human trials that correlate DHEA supplementation with preventing heart disease and cancer. Because people's DHEA levels appear to decline with age, many experts suggest supplementation to equal levels found in young adults.

Somewhat overlooked is DHEA's safety profile. After all, DHEA is a steroid hormone that is a precursor to testosterone and estrogen—powerful hormones in even tiny amounts. Studies suggest that moderate dosages of DHEA, 5 - 50 mg per day, appear to be relatively safe over the short term. A recent placebo-controlled study at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in France involved 280 men and women over 60 who took 50 mg DHEA per day. Subjects showed no significant problems over the course of one year. However, in this trial, DHEA did increase testosterone levels in women—but not men. No ill effects were reported from this rise, but anecdotally I have seen some women report symptoms of facial hair growth and acne consistent with elevated testosterone levels.

Because no long-term studies have been done, DHEA use requires caution. At the very least, periodic monitoring of DHEA, testosterone and estrogen levels should be conducted.

Dan Lukaczer, ND is director of clinical services at the Functional Medicine Research Center, a division of HealthComm International Inc., in Gig Harbor, Wash.