Supplementing with coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) may help those who suffer from migraines by reducing the number of attacks, according to a report in Cephalalgia (2002;22:137–41). CoQ10 is a vitamin-like compound that plays a role in energy production inside the cells of the body. Previous studies have shown that migraines may be caused, at least in part, by an impairment of energy production that could presumably be improved by CoQ10 supplementation.
In the new study, 31 migraine sufferers were given 150 mg of CoQ10 per day for three months. The average number of days per month on which participants experienced headaches was 60% lower during the last two months of CoQ10 treatment than during the month prior to treatment. In addition, the average number of migraine attacks per month decreased by 42% with CoQ10. Nearly two-thirds of the participants had a greater than 50% reduction in the number of days with a migraine, and 94% had at least a 25% reduction in migraine days. CoQ10 also produced a small benefit during the first month (13% reduction in attack frequency), but the results were much more pronounced during the second and third months of treatment. CoQ10 did not reduce the severity of headaches and did not cause any side effects.
These results are promising, considering that the prescription medications doctors recommend to prevent migraines can cause serious side effects, including depression, low blood pressure, nausea, constipation, and dizziness. CoQ10, on the other hand, has been safely used for decades, primarily as a treatment for heart conditions, and is not associated with any severe side effects. Although this report suggests that CoQ10 is effective for migraine prevention, double-blind studies are needed to rule out the possibility that the improvement was due to a placebo effect.
Two other nutrients that play a role in intracellular energy production (magnesium and riboflavin) have also been shown to reduce the recurrence rate of migraines. Some doctors recommend 200 to 600 mg of magnesium per day (watching for diarrhea with the larger amounts) and 100 to 400 mg of riboflavin per day for migraine prevention. As nutrients work in the body as a team, it is likely that the combination of CoQ10, magnesium, and riboflavin would be more effective than any one of these nutrients alone. However, additional studies are needed to determine whether such combinations are effective and the optimal level of intake.
Alan R. Gaby, M.D., is internationally recognized as an authority on nutritional medicine. He has recently completed a comprehensive textbook, Nutritional Medicine (www.doctorgaby.com).