Swedish scientists wrote medical history when they discovered that supplementation with Q10 and selenium could halve a person's risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Now, a 10-year follow-up of the Swedish study shows that taking these two supplements even has a notable long-term effect on cardiac function and lifespan.
Cardiologist Urban Alehagen who headed the original study is affiliated with the University of Linköping in Sweden. The study participants were recruited from a small town named Kisa, and the study is named KiSel-10, which is a contraction of the name of the town, selenium, and Q10.
The researchers gave the participants a combination of coenzyme Q10 and selenium, because selenium is both a powerful antioxidant that protects our cells and also a precondition for Q10's ability to work optimally.
Q10 is involved in the cellular energy metabolism of all cells. The substance is particularly important for the heart muscle, which contracts rhythmically day and night. Because our endogenous Q10 production decreases as we grow older, and because the Scandinavian agricultural soil is selenium-deprived, it is easy to become deficient in these two nutrients. For that reason alone, the combination of these two compounds made perfect sense.
The aim of the study
The Swedish KiSel-10 study investigated the effect of selenium and Q10 on:
- All-cause mortality
- The risk of dying of cardiovascular disease
- The degree of heart failure
- Cardiac function
- Quality of life
443 healthy men and women in the age group 70-88 years took part in the study. Half of them were given daily supplements of Q10 (200 mg) and selenium yeast (200 micrograms) for four years, while the other half got dummy pills (placebo). Each participant was measured, weighed and registered once every six months.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among older people. The study showed that those who had been given Q10 and selenium had a 54% lower risk of cardiovascular death and substantially fewer hospitalizations, compared with the placebo group.
Also, the study revealed that the participants who took Q10 and selenium had significantly better heart muscle function, something which contributes to increased quality of life and extended lifespan.
Studies on healthy people give new perspective
The KiSel-10 study and follow-up research that has been conducted afterwards is quite unique, in that the scientists have conducted research on healthy individuals and looked at what it is that keeps them healthy and alive.
The heart-protective effect persists
A 10-year follow-up of the original KiSel-10 study showed Urban Alehagen and his team of researchers that the heart-protective effect of selenium and Q10 persists. The scientists observed that the study participants who had been taking the two supplements throughout the four-year period, continued to have a 50% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality than those who had taken placebo.
Substantially better survival in the supplement group
What the researchers also found was a distinctly increasing distance between the numbers of survivors in the supplement group and in the placebo group. At baseline in the original KiSel-10 study, the number of participants in the two groups was quite similar with 222 participants in the supplement group and 221 in the placebo group. However, after the four years of intervention there were 208 people in the supplement group but only 194 in the placebo group. The scientists had anticipated some deaths in both groups, mainly because the average age at study start was 78 years. Nonetheless, 10 years after the KiSel-10 study was initiated, 175 participants remained in the supplement group, while there were only 136 participants left in the placebo group. In other words, there were far more survivors among those who had taken Q10 and selenium, and the distance between the number of survivors in the two groups had increased massively.
Stronger hearts and fewer hospitalizations
Since the KiSel-10 study was published in the International Journal of Cardiology in 2013, seven follow-up studies have been made on behalf of the original data. They all point towards Q10 and selenium as having the potential to improve the heart function and reduce the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease by around 50%. Moreover, an improved heart function contributes to improved quality of life among the elderly at the same time as reducing their need for hospitalization.
Age weakens the heart - Q10 and selenium counteract that weakening
Echocardiograms (ultrasound measurements) carried out as part of the KiSel-10 study revealed that the heart muscle pumped with less effort in those who had taken Q10 and selenium, compared with those who had taken placebo. Also, blood analyses showed another important difference in cardiac performance. Those who had been taking supplements had lower levels of NT-proBNP, a hormone which the heart muscle releases when it strains itself. The more the heart has to strain itself, the greater amount of hormone is released. Therefore the heart is not only an efficient pump but a hormonal gland, and the amount of NT-proBNP that it produces reflects the condition of the heart.
From our mid-forties, levels of NT-proBNP increase by about 6% a year, indicating a gradual weakening of the heart. Over time, this causes the cardiac muscle to become tense and stiff, a distinguishing characteristic of a weak heart. Even though the risk of a weak heart increases with age, it appears that Q10 and selenium can postpone the rise in NT-proBNP, and that is an objective sign of a more stable and stronger heart muscle.
Selenium deficiencies are widespread
Urban Alehagen and his team of researchers collected many blood samples that showed, among other things, how alarmingly low the selenium status is among older Swedes. Before the KiSel-10 study was initiated, the participants in both the supplement group and the placebo group had an average blood selenium content of 67.1 micrograms per liter. This is far too little to support the body's different selenium-dependent proteins (selenoproteins), which are important not only for optimal functioning of Q10 but also are constituent elements of powerful antioxidants, the immune defense, the metabolism, etc.
Subsequently, the researchers observed that study participants with the lowest blood selenium levels had a 56% greater risk of dying of cardiovascular disease and a 43% greater risk of dying of other causes.
The heart's Q10 content decreases with age
Measurements show that the heart's Q10 content generally decreases with age, which is also the case with the body's endogenous production of the compound.
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