Coenzyme Q shortens life span of worms substantially, UCLA chemists report

A popular dietary supplement, Coenzyme Q, accelerates aging and death in a microscopic worm studied by UCLA biochemists.

Adult worms on a diet without Coenzyme Q live 60 percent longer than those on a diet rich in the lipid, reports Pamela Larsen, UCLA research associate in chemistry and biochemistry, and Catherine Clarke, UCLA associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, in the Jan. 4 issue of the journal Science.

Our research indicates that too much Coenzyme Q for adults can be harmful, said Clarke, who has studied Coenzyme Q for 10 years. Too little is harmful, but so is too much.

In this respect, Coenzyme Q, a component of the cell necessary for growth and development, is similar to cholesterol, the UCLA biochemists said.

Like cholesterol, Coenzyme Q is produced naturally by the body, and cells require it for life, but like cholesterol, too much of it is harmful, Clarke said.

Scientists do not yet know how much is too much or how much is optimal, Clarke said, adding that research on Coenzyme Q is still in its infant stage.

Also called ubiquinone, Coenzyme Q supplements are sold as a means of boosting the immune system and promoting longevity.

The biochemists analyzed hundreds of Caenorhabditis elegans worms, giving one adult group a diet without Coenzyme Q, and another adult group a standard diet with Coenzyme Q. Surprisingly, the lower amounts of Coenzyme Q significantly extended their life span.

Because their entire life span lasts just a few weeks, C. elegans nematodes are frequently used by scientists to study aging, Larsen said.

They go from eggs to reproductively active adults in just three-and-a-half days, then they age, they get wrinkled and slow down, and they die, she said.

Most of the worms, with mutations in different genes, developed normally on a diet with Coenzyme Q during their first three-and-a-half days of life, but those with a mutation in a particular ge

Contact: Stuart Wolpert
University of California - Los Angeles

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