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Study suggests coenzyme Q-10 prevents nerve cell death

Oct. 14, 2002 A small but promising study found that the over-the-counter dietary supplement coenzyme Q-10, or CoQ10, may slow the progression of Parkinson's disease.
EXISTING TREATMENTS may ease symptoms of the degenerative brain disorder but are not believed to affect the underlying disease process. The new study found evidence that the naturally occurring compound CoQ10 may help stop the nerve cell death that characterizes Parkinson's.
"This is really sort of the Holy Grail of what we're trying to do in Parkinson's disease," said Dr. Tim Greenamyre, a Parkinson's scientist at Emory University who was not involved in the research. "They're on the right track."
The study involved just 80 people. Half ate maple-nut flavored wafers containing various CoQ10 doses, half took a placebo for up to 16 months. By the study's end, the 23 patients on the highest daily doses had 44 percent less decline in mental function, movement and ability to perform daily living tasks than the placebo group.
Lead author Dr. Clifford Shults at the University of California at San Diego and colleagues cautioned that there is not enough proof to recommend that Parkinson's patients use the supplements, which are sold over the counter as antioxidants that purportedly help improve heart function.
But the findings are "tremendously encouraging" Shults said. "We really need to do a definitive study" to confirm the findings. The study appears in October's Archives of Neurology.
Parkinson's is a progressive disorder that affects about 500,000 Americans. It results from degeneration of nerve cells that produce a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is needed to control muscle activity.
Symptoms include tremors, stiffness and a shuffling gait. Standard treatment includes the drug levodopa, which is converted into dopamine in the brain.


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