Feeling tired and listless? Read this

Joe Lang, 53, has been a regular customer at a pharmacy in Klang for many years. He recently came in complaining that his energy levels were not what they used to be and that he feels lousy in general.

His wife told the pharmacist in confidence that her husband loses his temper easily these days, especially when she tells him that he is getting forgetful. Last week, he could not find his mobile phone - it had been left on the roof of his car.

Joe just started taking a cholesterol-lowering medication about two months ago.

If you think that Joe's condition is simply another unavoidable affliction brought about by age, then you are surely missing out on an opportunity to stay young even as you grow older. This is no fairytale, just smart science.

Keeping energy levels up

Many have undertaken the journey to discover the fountain of youth, and nutritionally, the most promising results have emerged from the study of co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10).

Since one of the primary symptoms of ageing is declining energy levels, scientists began their search at the cellular level of human energy production. Every human cell relies on the cellular energy powerhouse (the mitochondria) to generate all our energy requirements.

CoQ10 was discovered in 1957 in the US by Dr Frederick Crane and his team, while its function was determined a year later.

However, a lot more hard work and millions of research hours went into finding out whether CoQ10 had any nutritional significance, and if it could be used in the treatment of disease.

After several false starts, the first successful use of CoQ10 for the treatment of heart failure was discovered in 1967. Since then, a vast number of studies have explored the effects of CoQ10 in a variety of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, gum disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease and migraine headache.

Understanding CoQ10

CoQ10 is a co-factor which is required by every cell in the body. It helps in the production of 95 per cent of the energy we need to live. It is also an antioxidant that can help prevent free radical damage to our cells.

The difference between a child and an elderly is the varied levels of CoQ10 in their bodies - ageing depletes natural CoQ10 levels and produces more free radicals.

CoQ10 is so critical that our body naturally produces it as soon as we are born. However, production stops around the age of 25, after which levels steadily decline. By the time we approach our 40s, our cells only have about 40 per cent of CoQ10 left.

Ageing is not the only factor that causes the body to be short of CoQ10. Stress and exercise as well as drug interactions also deplete this energy nutrient.

Do you know that commonly prescribed medications "eat up" CoQ10? Blood-pressure lowering drugs (beta blockers) and cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) block the production of CoQ10. In fact, statins can reduce blood levels of CoQ10 by up to 40 per cent.

Other drugs that reduce CoQ10 levels in the body include hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and oral contraceptives. Patients on these types of drugs may find themselves unduly tired, irritable, unable to handle stress well and aggressive. They may also experience muscle weakness and feel downright depressed.

Symptoms such as these are not part of ageing but occur due to CoQ10 deficiency.

As CoQ10 is involved in so many processes that enable the body to function, it is hardly a good idea to shut down the energy supply to your body, what more when already stricken with high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Correcting deficiencies

Restoring CoQ10 levels may help you "turn back the hands of time", so to speak, as more energy is channelled to all cells. You become more energised and alert, and your heart and immune system work better. Overall, a CoQ10 boost leads to you feeling better, younger and happier. In Japan and certain European countries, patients can receive government support for CoQ10 therapy. While this is not the case with Malaysia, it is interesting to note that the Ministry of Defence has included CoQ10 in its formulary list, where it is procured for military use.

With so many CoQ10 formulations out there, it is not unusual for consumers to be confused over which to choose. Here are some key pointers to help you select an ideal CoQ10 formulation for your needs.

CoQ10 is a large and oily molecule, which makes it difficult to be absorbed by the body. Therefore, hydro-solubility is crucial when making your choice. Hydro-soluble CoQ10 is a type of CoQ10 that has been rendered water-soluble through a patented technology.

A study published in The New Zealand Medical Journal reported that hydro-soluble CoQ10 was three times better absorbed than other CoQ10 formulations in whichever form, be it oil-suspension in capsules, tablets or powdered CoQ10 in capsules.

Understanding how CoQ10 is absorbed is also important. CoQ10 exhibits non-linear pharmacokinetics, which simply means that putting too large a dose actually hampers absorption, leading to greater wastage. Ideally, you should select a product that offers 30mg of CoQ10 enhanced with the patented hydro-soluble technology so that you benefit from an optimal dose.

Ask for proof that the CoQ10 you are buying actually works, especially if the CoQ10 is being used for treatment purposes. Clinical studies using hydro-soluble CoQ10 show that it improves heart performance in patients with heart failure, resulting in improvement in symptoms such as shortness of breath, palpations and weakness.

Hydro-soluble CoQ10 has also been shown in studies as an antioxidant capable of reducing cell death by up to 50 per cent besides being able to recycle other antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, hence its reputation as a super antioxidant.

Now back to Joe. The pharmacist decided to put him and his wife on hydro-soluble CoQ10. For Joe, it was to help him overcome the CoQ10 deficiency which occurred due to ageing (and likely from his cholesterol medication). Apparently, Joe is back to his normal self and is much sprightlier.

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