Coenzyme Q10 for Gulf War Illness
Posted July 19, 2012
Dr. Beatrice Golomb - University of California, San Diego

Dr. Beatrice Golomb Coenzyme Q10 (Q10) is a vitamin-like antioxidant, naturally produced in human cells and important for cellular energy production. Unfortunately, natural Q10 levels can be inadequate to meet the needs of those with increased "oxidative stress", a build-up of free oxygen radicals, or impaired energy production. This condition could describe thousands of veterans who served in the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, and are now suffering with Gulf War Illness (GWI).

Dr. Beatrice Golomb and a research team at the University of California at San Diego recently completed a 3-1/2 year study involving 46 veterans with GWI that examined the benefits of daily Q10 administration. Dr. Golomb hypothesized that mitochondrial dysfunction, which is linked to cellular energy production, might contribute to GWI symptoms, and sought to examine whether Q10 supplements conferred benefit to overall health and symptoms in GWI. Two dose levels (100mg/day and 300mg/day) were compared to each other and against placebo treatment, and subjects were treated for 3-month periods in a "cross-over" design (i.e. successive treatment then placebo periods). Self-rated responses for overall health and symptom-based questionnaires were used as study outcome measures.

The presence of carry-over effects confounded analysis of the intended cross-over design, however, analysis of the first 3-month treatment period, which by itself represented a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel design study, the 'gold standard' for randomized trials, remained valid. Results demonstrated that Q10 at 100mg led to significant benefit to Gulf War symptoms as well as improved physical function when compared to placebo. Study outcomes were assessed by examining effects from the 20 health symptoms most commonly reported by study participants. These symptoms spanned categories including fatigue, mood, cognition, muscle function, pain, skin, and autonomic symptoms, and with each included symptom present in at least half of the veterans. Not only was benefit to the summed score significant with Q10 at 100mg, but the direction of difference for Q10 at 100mg vs. placebo was favorable for every one of the 20 symptoms - an event that would be highly unlikely by chance (less than one in a million).

These findings provide important preliminary information on effect size and variance relative to self-rated health which could inform a larger trial of Q10 at 100mg better powered to show benefit to global self-rated health - and affirm benefits to Gulf War symptoms.

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