Supplement may prevent heart disease in people with low birth weight

diagram of chest showing heart and vessels(Study of rats suggests a deficiency in co-enzyme Q explains the link between low birth weight and heart disease.)
A study conducted in rats - and whose findings are yet to be confirmed in humans - suggests a simple enzyme supplement could be a cost-effective way to reduce the risk of heart disease in people of low birth weight who experienced rapid postnatal growth.
Writing in The FASEB Journal, researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK describe how they identified a new mechanism that explains the link between low birth weight and heart disease. They say it is due to a deficiency in co-enzyme Q (CoQ). They also suggest a possible treatment.
CoQ is an enzyme that is naturally present in the body. The Cambridge team found that cells need it for their mitochondria - their internal "batteries" that give them energy to function - and also to protect them from oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is caused by free radicals - highly reactive molecules that damage genes, proteins and cell membranes.
Globally, heart disease is responsible for more deaths than any other disease. Estimates for 2008 suggest 17.3 million people worldwide died of heart disease - a figure that is set to climb to over 23.3 million by 2030, highlighting the pressing need for improved ways to diagnose and treat the disease earlier.
For some time, it has been known that babies of low birth weight who grow quickly after birth are more likely to develop heart disease later in life compared with those of normal birth weight. However, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood, note the authors.

CoQ supplement prevents age-related aorta damage in low birth weight rats

The new study shows that feeding low birth weight rats extra CoQ prevents the age-associated damage to the aorta that causes heart disease. It also shows that low birth weight rats have less CoQ in their white blood cells - suggesting a blood test could use this as a marker of how much damage the aorta has suffered.
Senior author Susan Ozanne, professor of Developmental Endocrinology at Cambridge's Institute of Metabolic Science and her team fed one group of pregnant rats a control diet, and fed another group a diet with the same total calories but less protein and more carbohydrate.
The low-protein diet caused the rats to give birth to low birth weight pups. But the pups then grew rapidly when suckled by mothers fed on the control diet.
When the researchers examined the aortas of the low birth weight, fast-growing rat offspring, they found that the blood vessel cells had aged more rapidly than those of the normal birth weight counterparts. The team also found that the amount of cell aging correlated with lower levels of CoQ.
The team also found that supplementing the diets of the low birth weight rat pups with extra CoQ once they had weaned, prevented the faster aging and aorta damage seen in the counterparts that did not have the supplement.
Prof. Ozanne says, "Our study has answered a question that has puzzled doctors for some time now - why children of low birth weight who grow quickly are prone to heart disease in later life."

CoQ may be 'a safe and cost-effective supplement' for at-risk individuals

Prof. Ozanne and her team believe that if their results are confirmed in humans, they could one day lead to ways to not only treat early heart disease, but perhaps even prevent it.
First author Dr. Jane Tarry-Adkins, also of Cambridge's Institute of Metabolic Science, says of the study:
"It suggests that it may be possible to treat at-risk individuals with a safe and cost-effective supplement that has the potential to prevent heart disease before they display any symptoms of the disease."
However, although you can buy CoQ supplement in the drug store, do not rush out and buy it in the hope it will stop you having heart disease or a stroke, urges Dr. Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, who notes:
"This promising research was conducted in rats, and if it also applies to people, still doesn't tell us how much to take, for how long, and if it's safe for these purposes."
The most important risk factor for heart disease is hypertension or high blood pressure. A surprising new study that Medical News Today learned of recently suggests that dietary sugar contributes more to high blood pressure than salt.

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