Could preventing depressive episodes be as simple as getting a daily dose of a dietary supplement? A new study has found that a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent has a place in the complex treatment of bipolar disorder, characterized by manic highs and depressive lows.

Researchers in Iran have found that CoQ10 can help improve mood. They divided 69 patients with bipolar disorder into two groups—one group took 200 mg of CoQ10 a day in addition to their mood stabilizers and antidepressants…the other group added a placebo. After eight weeks, the CoQ10 group had greater improvement of depression symptoms than the placebo group. The finding makes sense: CoQ10 is vital to every cell’s energy-producing process. More energy means less fatigue and feeling down.

Important: CoQ10 alone may not be the answer to treating bipolar disorder and you should never take any supplements or substitute supplements for medication without consulting your health-care provider. It certainly can be a helpful complement to your treatment even if prescriptions are working well. (On the other hand, some doctors have successfully used CoQ10 to effectively treat certain cases of diagnosed bipolar disorder that are characterized primarily by depression without typical prescription drugs—don’t be surprised if your provider is willing to give it a try as a solo therapy.)

HOW TO SUPPLEMENT WITH CoQ10

Organ meats such as liver and kidneys are great sources of CoQ10 but not quite daily food choices people are likely to make. You’ll find it in smaller amounts in beef, sardines, mackerel and peanuts, but not enough to get a significant amount in your system. That’s why supplements are usually needed.

Once your doctor prescribes CoQ10, keep in mind that it’s better to take 100 mg twice a day than a single 200 mg dose. Dividing the amount suggested by the study into two doses could prevent gastric upset, which is a rare but possible side effect. Also, more isn’t better when it comes to CoQ10—more than 200 mg a day is often unnecessary and could invite more side effects.

Warning: If you also take a blood-thinner, some evidence suggests that CoQ10 may offset the blood-thinning effect of warfarin (Coumadin). Though other studies have not found this effect, if you decide to take CoQ10, ask your doctor to test your blood-clotting time to see if it has any effect on you.

MORE ABOUT CoQ10

If you take statins to reduce cholesterol, taking CoQ10 can help you avoid some of the more unpleasant side effects of those drugs, notably muscle pain and weakness and possible tendinitis. CoQ10 use has also been linked to migraine relief and even high blood pressure reduction.