Coenzyme Q10 can stop migraine attacks in humans, according to a double-blind placebo-controlled study presented at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in April 2004.
The double-blind, placebo-controlled study involved 42 subjects who suffered an average of 4.4 migraine attacks per month. The patients were not allowed to take any other migraine medication during the study. For a month, all subjects consumed a placebo, and then some of the patients were randomly assigned to receive 100 mg of a liquid, water-soluble form of CoQ10 (Q-Gel) three times a day. The remaining subjects continued to receive a placebo.
Roughly 48 percent of the Coenzyme Q10 group experienced a 50% response rate during the three-month study. Only about 14 percent of those taking a placebo experienced the same response rate. In addition, the patients treated with CoQ10 experienced fewer migraine attacks per month—3.2 after treatment compared to 4.4 before treatment—while the placebo group experienced no reduction in migraine frequency. CoQ10-treated subjects also experienced more headache-free days than the placebo group and fewer days with nausea.
Although one subject developed an allergic skin rash after taking CoQ10, adverse effects were minimal. One of the researchers in the study pointed out that the mild and rare side effects that occurred with CoQ10 were mild compared to side effects that occur with anti-migraine medications such as beta blockers.
The study results confirm those of an earlier study of CoQ10 and migraines.
According to the researchers, the mechanism behind Coenzyme Q10's anti-migraine action may have to do with the mitochondria. They speculated that a decrease in mitochondrial energy reserve may cause migraines. CoQ10's ability to enhance mitochondrial function may be the mechanism behind its anti-migraine effect.
Comment by Alan R. Gaby, MD
Previous studies have demonstrated that migraine patients have impaired mitochondrial function resulting in a reduction in energy production in brain tissue. Nutrients essential for mitochondrial energy production include magnesium, riboflavin, niacinamide, CoQ10, [Carnitine, and Ribose].
Controlled trials have demonstrated that supplementing with either magnesium or riboflavin can reduce the attack rate in migraine sufferers. Niacinamide has not been studied for migraine prophylaxis. While there is a single case report in which niacin reduced the recurrence rate of migraines (Mayo Clin Proc 2003;78:770-771), the effectiveness of niacin may have been due to its vasodilatory action, which is not shared by niacinamide. An earlier uncontrolled trial showed a beneficial effect of CoQ10, and those results have now been confirmed in this double-blind trial.
American Academy of Neurology 2004 Annual Meeting, San Francisco, April 28, 2004, Abstract S43.004.
Sandor PS, et al. Efficacy of coenzyme Q10 in migraine prophylaxis: a randomized controlled trial. Neurology 2005;64:713-715.
Dr. Gaby's comments reprinted with exclusive permission of The Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients November 2005, http://www.townsendletter.com/.