I read a report today by Professor Lipshutz about coenzymeQ10. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it but it’s a chemical which is necessary for the normal functioning of every cell of your body. Given its biological importance, some people have wondered if you can improve function, and therefore health, by giving additional amounts to people as some kind of supplement. The problem with the current supplements is two fold – first coenzymeQ10 has been expensive to make (that’s changed now as the Chinese have developed a cheaper method), and, second, there’s a problem of getting it absorbed into the body. The supplements on the market now tend to deliver only about 10 – 15% of the enzyme. The report I read today is from an American researcher who believes he has come up with a method to tackle this latter problem by using nanotechnology to make coenzymeQ10 easier to deliver effectively to the human body.
OK, so far, this sounds like a good story. If this stuff in needed and giving more of it makes people better then something that improves its availability must just be a good thing. But the question of whether or not taking supplements of coenzymeQ10 will improve your health, either in general, or specifically in relation to particular diseases, hasn’t been clearly answered yet. I agree with the logic expressed by Dr Langsjoen who wrote a very clear summary here. He said -
Modern medicine seems to be based on an “attack strategy”, a philosophy of treatment formed in response to the discovery of antibiotics and the development of surgical/anesthetic techniques. Disease is viewed as something that can be attacked selectively – with antibiotics, chemotherapy, or surgery – assuming no harm to the host. Even chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and hypertension, yield simple numbers which can be furiously assaulted with medications. Amidst the miracles and drama of 20th century medicine we may have forgotten the importance of host support, as if time borrowed with medications and surgery were restorative in and of itself. Yet, in this age, a patient may be cured of leukemia through multiple courses of chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation, only to die slowly of unrecognized thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency(47). Like the vitamins discovered in the early part of this century, CoQ10 is an essential element of food that can now be used medicinally to support the sick host in conditions where nutritional depletion and cellular dysfunction occur. Surely, the combination of disease attacking strategy and host supportive treatments would yield much better results in clinical medicine.
There was one particular phrase used by Professor Lipshutz which did alarm me however -
Nature gave us, through 2.5 billion years of evolution, a number of fundamental anti-aging, free-radical scavengers that helped us to survive, on average, only to about 40 years of age, until modern medicine came along
Dear, oh dear. Does Professor Lipshutz really believe that? That life expectancy has increased in the developed world from 40 to 70 years because of “modern medicine”? That’s just not true. And it’s not even what is taught in medical schools. The BIG improvements in life expectancy are not down to medicine at all. They are down to clean water, better housing, improvements in food availability and reductions in absolute and relative poverty. We won’t improve the health of most people by technical fixes. It’s going to need some political will to change our societies.