Wednesday, December 22, 2010

PQQ - A Biological MultiTasker That Helps You Thrive

You've probably never heard of it and I would venture to guess that many of those serving in the medical field haven't either but pyrroloquinolone quinone (PQQ) is the life force behind what makes so many different living species thrive including human beings.  It was discovered way back in the 1960's as a bacterial cofacter [1].  But as the years have gone by scientists have uncovered just how important this micronutrient is to both the plant and animal kingdom.  Much has been discovered about it's role to the overall health of human beings in the past couple of decades so let's take a look at what this is all about.

How does PQQ benefit humans?

There's several important functions that PQQ carries out that are vital to our health and longevity.  The most important of these has to do with the growth of new mitochondria otherwise known as mitochondrial biogenesis [2].  If you can remember way back from biology class in high school mitochondria serve as little powerhouses in all of our living cells whether they be muscle cells, fats cells, skin cells, or any other living cell in our body.  Mitochondria turn the food that we eat into usable energy.  They're also responsible for many other functions such as cell signaling, cellular differentiation, cell growth, and cell death.  We literally could not function as living beings without our mitochondria.  Because PQQ is so vital to the growth and development process it is thought to increase our durability and longevity.  The more healthy and functioning mitochondria we have in our cells the healthier and longer we live [3,4].

Powerful antioxidant effects have also been shown as yet another benefit of PQQ.  Antioxidants are extremely important to a person's overall health because they act to neutralize the effects of free radicals in the body.  Free radicals can cause oxidative damage to our cells, tissues, organs, and overall system leading to a number of chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and more.  PQQ helps keep this process in check by limiting free radical damage to our body by carrying out processes known as redox cycling reactions [5].  In fact, PQQ may even be considered a super antioxidant because it is far more stable than most other antioxidants and can carry out more redox cycling reactions as a result of this.  It's been found to be 175 times more efficient than epicatechin (antioxidant found in chocolate), 200 times more efficient than quercetin (antioxidant found in green tea & various fruits & vegetables), and 5,000 times more efficient than vitamin C [14].

PQQ has some profound benefits in relation to cardiovascular health as well [6].  In a study in 2006 using animal models, PQQ was actually shown to be superior to a well known beta-blocker (metoprolol) in reducing oxidative damage after a heart attack and resulted in reduced area of cardiac tissue death and improved overall cardiac function [7].  Another study using animal models found that PQQ "appears to act as a free radical scavenger in ischemic myocardium & is a highly effective cardioprotective agent" [15].  While large scale studies are needed to assess the direct impact on cardiovascular health in humans it goes without saying that the data so far clearly points to beneficial affects that PQQ has on the heart.

The benefits go beyond heart health though.  PQQ has been studied for it's neurological protection especially in cases following a stroke or spinal cord injury.  One study showed that when PQQ was given within 3 hours of a stroke in animal models there was reduction in tissue damage due to a return of blood flow to the damaged area in the brain [8].  Another mechanism by which PQQ provides neurological protection is by reducing the damage from a substance called inducible nitric oxide synthase (iONs) which plays a crucial role following a spinal cord injury [9].  Inducible nitric oxide synthase (iONs) forms reactive nitrogen species and these have been shown to damage N-methyl-d-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptors [10].  NMDA receptors are important because they allow your nerves cells to communicate to one another so that they can carry out the everyday functions of your nervous system.  In addition to reducing damage due to strokes and spinal cord injuries PQQ has also been shown to help in the treatment of Parkinson's disease[11] and Alzheimer's disease [12].

PQQ has also had a positive affect on memory function in humans.  A randomized, double-blind study released in 2009 looked at the the effect of PQQ and CoQ10 supplementation over a 3 month period on 71 middle aged individuals.  What they found is that memory, attention, and cognition improved in individuals supplementing with PQQ and this affect was enhanced even more when taking both PQQ and CoQ10 together [13].

The last benefit I'll mention is the ability of PQQ to enhance the cell growth and development of human fibroblasts [16].  Why is this important to you?  Well, I'm sure all of you females out there will like this because human fibroblasts are the cells that form connective tissue in the body.  The constant regeneration of new connective tissue keeps your skin from wrinkling.  So when you take in adequate amounts of PQQ you are keeping those wrinkles at bay and retaining your youthful appearance.

How much PQQ do I need?

The recommended daily intake of PQQ has not been determined thus far by either the USDA or the World Health Organization.  Research is just beginning in humans in regards to this topic and until more studies come out we just don't know.  However, an article written in 2009 in the Alternative Medicine Review journal mentions that typical exposure to PQQ in humans tends to be 100-400 mcg/daily in the free form and 1-2 mg/day in the form of PQQ derivatives [14].

Remember the study mentioned above about PQQ increasing memory function in humans?  Well, that study involved individuals taking a dose of 20 mg/day of PQQ to achieve those beneficial results [13].  PQQ has been studied in humans in dosages up to 60 mg/day with no observed side effects or toxicities [14].  With all this in mind, I think it's safe to say that the jury is still out when it comes to determining what dose of PQQ is considered optimal for overall human health.

Where can I get PQQ?

It has been shown that humans and other animals cannot currently synthesize their own PQQ [17,18] so it must be obtained through diet or supplementation.  Therefore, PQQ is considered an essential micronutrient.  PQQ is available in supplement form but I believe the best way to get this micronutrient is from nutrient dense, plant-based foods.  I have always been of the philosophy that if you can get the nutrients you need through health promoting foods then this is a much better option over taking supplements.  The reason that this is the case is because when you consume health promoting foods (i.e. nutrient dense, plant-based foods) for any one particular nutrient you are also getting many other added benefits including increased fiber intake in addition to consuming a myriad of other important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals contained within these foods.

With this being said you can find PQQ in many different foods.  However, it is found in the highest quantities in plant-based foods as seen in the chart below.

To sum it all up

PQQ is new on the research front and it's exciting to see the initial benefits coming to light with this very important micronutrient.  As time goes on we'll get a better idea of just how much we need for optimal health.  Until then I think it's fair to say that it would be wise to do what's long been proven to improve the overall health and well being of human beings and that is - consume nutrient dense, whole foods that are from the plant-based spectrum (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seeds, and legumes) and limit or avoid foods that are highly processed or are from animal-based sources (meat, dairy, eggs).  Science has proven that you just can't go wrong with this approach.

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by Dustin Rudolph, PharmD
Clinical Pharmacist

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