In recent years, the social and medical advances in understanding Trisomy 21 have made the lives of people with Down Syndrome (DS) much more productive and enjoyable. As medical research strives to give people with Down syndrome a better quality of life, it seems that clinical recommendations have not yet caught up.
Down syndrome, while an incurable genetic condition, causes very real biochemical changes in the body. These include anything from an overload of oxidative stress and low thyroid function to metabolic disorders and early dementia. These physiological changes in the body can be mitigated, to some extent, by a number of different approaches including but not limited to diet, exercise and lifestyle modification.
In most instances, diet alone won't be enough to improve any symptoms a person with Down Syndrome experiences, due to the genetic nature of the condition. In these cases, super nutrients and supplements play a huge role in maintaining and promoting health.
These super supplements and nutrients help the body to deal with extra free radicals and reduce the amount of oxidation stress on the body. They also help the body to produce the energy it needs.
One of these super supplements is CoQ10.
What is CoQ10?
CoenzymeQ10 is an antioxidant necessary for the proper function of cells. It naturally occurs in the body and plays a huge role in energy metabolism and free radical neutralization. In other words, as our bodies produce energy, free radicals or unpaired electrons, are created. These unpaired electrons go throughout the body wreaking havoc by destroying cells and soft tissue. CoQ10 helps to decrease this process from occurring in a couple of different ways.
As an integral part of the electron transport chain located in the mitochondria, or powerhouse, of the cell, CoQ10 plays a huge role. It helps to act as a direct antioxidant, reducing the amount of unpaired electrons in the body, or to regenerate vitamins E and C which act as antioxidants in their own right.
CoQ10 has been researched for many different conditions like heart disease, Parkinson's, cholesterol lowering medication-induced muscle weakness and pain, and migraines. It has also been researched in Down syndrome.
Can my child just eat the right foods to get enough CoQ10?
I get it. Taking pills can be challenging for people with DS and doesn't sound nearly as fun as incorporating quality foods with varied nutritional content into the diet.
It's true that CoQ10 can be found in all types of foods. It is found mainly in foods like beef, sardines, mackerel, avocados, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. In fact, adding these to your child's diet can be very beneficial for their overall health.
Unfortunately the amount of CoQ10 naturally found in foods is far too small to be effective in reducing some of the symptoms of DS. People with DS have a greater need for CoQ10 than a typical person due to the effects of the extra chromosome 21.
Getting an adequate amount of CoQ10 from the diet for a person with DS just isn't realistic. For example, to get 100mg of the super molecule, you'd have to eat 133 cups of cabbage, 77 cups of broccoli, or 187 avocados a day . Clearly, a supplement is way easier to take.
So why should children with DS take CoQ10?
COQ10 is also called ubiquinone and for a good reason. Ubiquinone might remind you of another word: ubiquitous. Ubiquitous means appearing everywhere. CoQ10 was named after this word because the molecule seems to appear everywhere in the body. Unfortunately this is usually not the case with people who have DS who usually have drastically lower levels of this super molecule.
Research has shown that people with DS usually have higher levels of inflammatory molecules like interleukin-6 while at the same time having lower levels of CoQ10 than people without DS . Less CoQ10 means more oxidative stress in the individual. Oxidative stress, more unchecked free radicals, leads to a whole host of illnesses and disorders like dementia and Alzheimers.
Children with DS should take CoQ10 because it is so beneficial in helping to lower the amount of oxidative stress. It also helps with DNA repair . Damaged DNA can lead to diseases like early dementia and cancers.
CoQ10 also helps to reduce mitochondrial dysfunction by acting as an electron transporter in the electron transport chain. This allows the body's powerhouse, the mitochondria, to use the body's nutrient resources more effectively to make ATP or energy. Since most people with DS experience mitochondrial dysfunction, CoQ10 can be very helpful in reducing its severity.
How will CoQ10 benefit my child?
CoQ10 can help to reduce the severity of developmental delay due to oxidative stress in your child. It can help to slow the aging process that seems to happen so rapidly in our children due to increased free radicals. It can also help to strengthen heart muscle function and increase energy production. It also helps to reduce inflammation due to expression of the extra copy of chromosome 21.
These changes can have a huge impact on how your child learns, grows, and interacts with his environment. High amounts of inflammation in children with DS have been linked to a lower IQ. CoQ10 can lower that inflammation and have a positive impact on your child's intellectual ability.
CoQ10 can also help improve your child's energy making mitochondria giving your child more energy to enjoy her childhood. Beware of giving your child too much because she may become so energetic that you won't be able to put her to sleep at night (true story).
While CoQ10 can't cure DS or completely eradicate the effects of the extra chromosome, it is definitely a super supplement that can help optimize your child's health and allow their potential to bloom.
Consider contacting your naturopathic physician to see how to incorporate this super supplement into your child' health routine.
1. NCCIH. (2018). Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): In Depth. [online] Available at: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/supplements/coq10
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