We may be facing a new strategy for heart disease
What got you interested in selenium and coenzyme Q10 in relation to cardiovascular disease? I got interested in these compounds when I was asked about patients with heart failure in connection with a study we were conducting. Here, we compared healthy elderly individuals to peers suffering from heart failure with specific focus on so-called oxidative stress. The results were really interesting and we started wondering if there was a possible link between selenium and heart failure. While discussing these matters we suddenly realized that the combination of selenium and coenzyme Q10 was the hot topic that needed closer inspection.
What earlier studies do you know of that point to selenium and coenzyme Q10 as the ideal combination for the heart?
In terms of heart failure, there are no large studies to support the use of these two com-
pounds in combination. However, there is a small study of the combination used as add-on therapy for patients with myocardial infarction. Still, it differs somewhat from our study. Small-scale studies with moderate results, nonetheless, suggest that both selenium and coenzyme Q10 are crucial for normal heart muscle functioning.
In your article, you write that selenium supplements are particularly important in areas like Scandinavia. Why is that?
With regard to Scandinavia, two factors are at play: our soil and our lifestyle. Our soil is selenium-depleted and we are unable to get enough of the nutrient from our diets. This is only made worse by our reduced intake of fish which is otherwise an excellent selenium source. Because of this shortcoming a growing number of people advocate supplements as a way of compensating for the inadequacy.
Do you regard coenzyme Q10 as being crucial for heart patients – both as prevention and therapy?
Studies link certain heart diseases with reduced coenzyme Q10 levels. In addition, it has been shown that supplements of the compound increase intra-cellular coenzyme Q10 levels. In other words, it pays off to give supplements. Heart patients, particularly those with heart failure, are likely to benefit from taking coenzyme Q10.
Do you see your study as an important step forward in cardiology?
What we have shown with selenium and coenzyme Q10 is really exciting and quite surprising. However, our study is limited and must be reproduced in a setup with more volunteers before we can really put our trust in the results. Still, with this new scientific insight we have, for the first time ever, relevant material for discussing a possible new treatment. Having said that, our study is what is known as “hypothesis-generating” and needs further evaluation.
Do you currently use selenium and coenzyme Q10 to treat your patients?
As a physician I am obliged to use scientifically acknowledged therapies only. This is a non-negotiable principle. However, I intend to inform patients about new research, including the findings we have made. Whether or not the patients decide to investigate these alternative therapies as a supplement to their prescribed treatments is entirely their own decision.