Q10 and selenium may help extend our lifespan
A previous study has demonstrated that daily supplementation with coenzyme Q10 and selenium increases heart muscle strength in seniors and reduces their cardiovascular mortality by over 50 percent. Now, a team of Swedish and Norwegian scientists has found that these two nutrients are also able to slow down the age-related shortening of cellular telomeres, which are attached to the ends of all DNA strands. You can compare telomeres to the small aglets that prevent our shoelaces from fraying and tangling. Like aglets, telomeres protect the DNA strands, but they are exposed to attrition and eventually wear out. The more worn our telomeres become, the more exposed the cellular DNA becomes, until it reaches the point where the cell finally perishes. Q10 and selenium appear to preserve telomere length, thereby keeping us in good health for longer time.
All cells in the body are exposed to ageing, which increases our risk of things like cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, and cancer. The cellular energy turnover and our antioxidant defense are both of key importance to cellular well-being and the ageing process. Moreover, there is a natural limit to the number of times a healthy cell is able to replicate before it dies.
The ability of cells to replicate or divide hinges on the length of the so-called telomeres that are attached to the ends of our chromosomes. Just like plastic aglets prevent shoelaces from fraying and becoming tangled, telomeres protect the DNA strands in our cells. Each time a cell divides, its telomeres become shorter, a process known as telomere attrition. Once the telomeres are gone, the DNA strands unravel and the cell dies.
Telomere shortening is associated with ageing processes and cardiovascular disease, but science has not known until recently whether Q10 and selenium can affect telomere length. For that reason, the team of Scandinavian scientists wanted to look closer at this, and they did so by analyzing some of the research material from the groundbreaking KiSel-10 study that is published in International Journal of Cardiology. In this study, 443 older, healthy Swedes were randomly assigned to daily supplementation with Q10 (200 mg) and selenium yeast (200 micrograms) or matching placebo for a period of 42 months. The Q10 and selenium yeast were pharmeutical-grade.
Upon completion of the intervention period, the scientists observed that heart muscle strength had increased in the active treatment group, and the cardiovascular mortality rate had been reduced by 54 percent compared to the placebo group.
These two nutrient supplements had such a surprising effect on health and lifespan that the scientists initiated further analyses of the more than 50,000 blood samples that had been taken from the participants in both groups and stored in freezers.
This has resulted in a host of additional follow-up studies where the scientists have studied different biomarkers that reflect the mechanisms through which Q10 and selenium affect our circulatory system, heart function, and lifespan.
Q10 and selenium reduce telomere attrition
In the new follow-up study that is published in Nutrients, the scientists studied leucocyte telomere length in the participants. At baseline, the telomere length in both groups was pretty much the same. However, when comparing the length of telomeres after 42 months of supplementation with Q10 and selenium yeast, the scientists could see that the telomeres in the active treatment group were longer than they were in the control group. There were also substantially fewer cardiovascular deaths among those participants with longer telomeres. The scientists concluded on behalf of their findings that supplementation with Q10 and selenium has a protective effect on telomeres and even lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
How do Q10 and selenium protect telomeres?
When we start ageing, our cellular energy metabolism slows down and fails to work properly, which increases the free radical load. Ageing is also associated with chronic low-grade inflammation that exposes the body to oxidative stress, a situation where potentially harmful free radicals outnumber the protective free radicals.
When the body is exposed to oxidative stress, free radicals attack cells and start chain reactions in the cells and their membranes. This can cause damage to the telomeres. Both Q10 and selenium are unique and powerful antioxidants that protect cells and their telomeres against free radical damage in different ways.
Moreover, Q10 plays a key role in cellular energy turnover, and there are certain selenium-containing enzymes (selenoproteins) that Q10 needs in order to function optimally in connection with the energy metabolism. The two nutrients support the cells’ energy turnover at the same time as protecting cells and tissues against oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
Why Q10 and selenium are relevant for natural anti-ageing
We humans synthesize most of the Q10 we need for different functions. However, the endogenous Q10 synthesis gradually decreases from the age of around 20 years or so, and many people start to feel this when they reach their fifties. Their energy levels decrease and they have less vitality.
To make matters worse, the agricultural soil in large parts of Europe is low in selenium, which means crops are also low in this nutrient. Even if you eat a balanced diet, it can be a challenge to get enough selenium. The average European selenium intake is below 55 micrograms daily. However, according to published research, we need more than 100 micrograms of selenium daily to properly saturate selenoprotein P, which is used as a marker for the body’s selenium status.
Ageing generally seems to increase our need for both Q10 and selenium, and the combination of these two nutrients seem to serve as the perfect natural anti-ageing cocktail for protecting telomeres and cells.
The quality of supplements is vital
The Q10 and selenium supplements that were used in the above-mentioned research are pharmaceutical-grade. This ensures good absorption and utilization, which is crucial in clinical studies. If scientists use products that do not have proper documentation for their quality and bioavailability, they can never expect to see the same positive results.
Q10 and selenium affect many other functions
Some of the previous follow-up studies that have followed in the wake of the Kisel-10 study have shown that Q10 and selenium have a positive effect on the heart, on epithelial cells, fibrosis, IgF1, and micro-RNA that regulates our genes, among other things. Read more:
Trine Baur Opstad, Jan Alexander, Jan Aaseth, Anders Larsson, Ingebjørg Seljeflot, Urban Alehagen. Selenium and Coenzyme Q10 Intervention Prevents Telomere Attrition, with Association to Reduced Cardiovascular Mortality – Sub-study of a Randomized Clinical Trial. Nutrients 2022
Urban Alehagen et al. Improved cardiovascular health by supplementation with selenium and coenzyme Q10: applying structural equation modelling (SEM) to clinical outcomes and biomarkers to explore underlying mechanisms in a prospective randomized double-blind placebo-controlled intervention project in Sweden. European Journal of Nutrition. 2022
Alehagen U, et al. Cardiovascular mortality and N-Terminal-proBNP reduced after combined selenium and coenzyme Q10 supplementation. Int J Cardiol. 2013.
Pernille Lund. Q10 – fra helsekost til epokegørende medicin. 2013
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