If you're looking for ways to improve the health of your heart, don't overlook the dramatic impact of two simple nutrients: vitamin B6 and CoQ10.
In a controlled study published in the journal Nutrition Research in October 2012, researchers from Chung Shan Medical University in Taiwan measured blood levels of vitamin B6 and CoQ10 in 89 healthy controls and 45 people with coronary artery disease (CAD, defined as at least 50 percent stenosis of one major coronary artery). The researchers found that participants with CAD had significantly lower levels of both chemicals than healthy participants.
In addition, people with a higher ratio of CoQ10 to total cholesterol also had significantly higher vitamin B6 levels, and people with higher levels of CoQ10 had a significantly lower risk of CAD even after adjusting for potential confounding factors.
It remains unclear whether low levels of B6 and CoQ10 are actually a cause of CAD, but researchers believe that boosting levels of the chemicals would help protect the heart regardless.
"Age is known to be an independent risk factor for CAD, and the patients suffering from CAD may experience losses of [CoQ10] because they are under higher oxidative stress due to aging and disease," the researchers wrote. "Therefore, it is beneficial to administer [CoQ10] to CAD patients to reduce oxidative stress and increase the activities of antioxidant enzymes."
Because the body uses vitamin B6 to synthesize CoQ10, vitamin supplements may also be helpful to people with CAD, the researchers said.
B6 and CoQ10 keep your body functioning
It's no surprise that low levels of vitamin B6 and CoQ10 might lead to health problems, since both are essential for the body's normal functioning.
Vitamin B6, which is found in foods such as meat, whole grains, nuts, bananas and vegetables, is an essential nutrient that plays a key role in amino acid and sugar metabolism. Yet according to 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, deficiency in this vitamin is widespread even among those who are taking supplements or who are exceeding dietary recommendations. Women who have taken oral contraceptives are at especially high risk.
Unlike vitamin B6, which must be ingested from food, CoQ10 (officially known as coenzyme Q10) can be synthesized in the body. CoQ10 helps produce energy for cells by assisting mitochondria in producing the cellular fuel source adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Coenzymes are chemicals that assist the body's enzymes in carrying out processes such as digestion and organ maintenance.
CoQ10 has also been shown to provide other health benefits, including to those suffering from angina and high blood pressure. It appears to aid in cognitive health, and may help fight the effects of aging.
Although CoQ10 is made by the body, you can boost your levels by consuming CoQ10-rich foods including organ meats, beef, sardines, mackerel and soy oil. It is also marketed as a dietary supplements under names including Q10, vitamin Q10, ubiquinone and ubidecarenone.