Coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10, is a fat-soluble, vitamin-like, essential compound that works like an antioxidant in the body.
In its active form, it’s called ubiquinone or ubiquinol.
It’s synthesized within the body naturally and used for important functions, such as supplying cells with energy, transporting electrons and regulating blood pressure levels.
Unfortunately, our body’s natural production of CoQ10 declines with age. However, you can boost this essential compound through supplements or foods.
Numerous health conditions such as heart disease, neurological disorders, diabetes, and cancer have been linked to low levels of CoQ10. But, It’s unclear whether low levels of CoQ10 cause these diseases or are a result of them. (1)
However, one thing is for certain, plenty of research has revealed that CoQ10 has a wide range of significant health benefits.
What Is CoQ10?
CoQ10 is a vital compound made by your body and stored in the mitochondria of your cells. (2)
Research has shown that CoQ10 plays several key roles in your body.
One of its primary functions is to start the production of energy in your cells. It’s involved in making cellular energy called ATP, which is used for different processes in the body.
Its other crucial role is to serve as an antioxidant and protect cells from oxidative damage.
Oxidative damage produces free radicals, which can interfere with regular cell functioning. This is known to cause many health conditions. (3)
Given that ATP is used to carry out all the body's functions and oxidative damage is destructive to cells, it is not surprising that several chronic diseases have been linked to low levels of CoQ10. (4)
CoQ10 is present in every cell of your body. However, the organs with the most energy demands, such as the heart, kidneys, lungs and liver, contain the highest concentrations of it. (5)
CoQ10 production decreases as you age. Thus, older people seem to be deficient in this vital compound.
Some other causes of CoQ10 deficiency include: (6)
- Nutritional deficiencies, such as B6
- Genetic defects in CoQ10 synthesis or utilization
- Increased demands by tissues as a consequence of disease
- Mitochondrial diseases
- Oxidative stress due to aging
- Side effects of statin treatments
Here are the 6 main benefits of CoQ10
1. CoQ10 and Energy Conversion
CoQ10 plays a role in “mitochondrial ATP synthesis,” which is the conversion of raw energy from foods (carbohydrates and fats) into the form of energy that our cells use called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). (7)
This conversion process requires the presence of coenzyme Q in the inner mitochondrial membrane. One of its roles is to accept electrons during fatty acid and glucose metabolism and then transfer them to electron acceptors. (8)
The process of making ATP has many benefits, from preserving muscle mass to helping regulate appetite and body weight.
2. CoQ10 and Free Radical Damage
Oxidative damage (or free radical damage) of cell structures plays an important role in the functional declines that accompany aging and cause disease.
As a fat-soluble antioxidant, CoQ10 has been found to prevent the oxidative degradation of lipids, otherwise known as (lipid peroxidation), which occurs when cell membranes and low-density lipoproteins are exposed to oxidizing conditions that enter from outside the body.
In fact, when LDL is oxidized, CoQ10 is one of the first antioxidants consumed to help offset the effects.
Within mitochondria, coenzyme Q10 has been found to protect membrane proteins and DNA from oxidative damage by neutralizing free radicals directly that contribute to nearly all age-related diseases including but not limited to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and neurological disorders.
3. CoQ10 and Heart Health
Although experts feel that additional clinical trials are still needed to support its effects, CoQ10 has strong potential for prevention and treatment of heart ailments by improving cellular energy, acting as an antioxidant and boosting free radical-scavenging abilities.
A 2015 report published in Frontiers in Bioscience stated that “CoQ10 deficiencies” are due to mitochondrial ailments, aging-related oxidative stress and also the effect of statin treatment. (9)
What we do know is that CoQ10 supplementation seems to be useful for those taking statins, since it lowers side effects that they often cause.
Statins are used to reduce an enzyme in the liver that not only decreases the production of cholesterol, but also further lowers the natural production of CoQ10.
It’s now widely accepted that CoQ10 can interact with lipid lowering medications that hinder the activity of HMG-CoA reductase, a critical enzyme in both cholesterol and coenzyme Q10 biosynthesis.
A supplement of CoQ10 is therefore essential to restore natural levels to their optimum and counter the effects of statin drugs.
4. CoQ10 and Aging
Mitochondrial ATP synthesis is an important function for maintaining a fast metabolism, strength of muscles, strong bones, youthful skin and healthy tissue.
Tissue levels of coenzyme Q10 have been reported to decline with age, and this is believed to contribute to declines in energy metabolism and degeneration of organs, such as the liver and heart, and skeletal muscle.
Although supplementing with CoQ10 has not been shown to increase the life span of animals that have been tested with it, researchers believe it can slow down the age-related increase in DNA damage that naturally affect us all.
More research is still needed to draw conclusions, but possible anti-aging benefits of consuming more CoQ10 include decrease muscle loss, less signs of skin damage, and protection from bone or joint injuries.
5. CoQ10 and pH Levels
Within cells, CoQ10 helps transport proteins across membranes and separate certain digestive enzymes from the rest of the cell, which helps maintain optimal pH.
It’s believed that diseases develop more easily in environments that don’t have proper pH levels, specifically those that are not overly acidic.
For several reasons, likely including its ability to maintain proper pH, several studies have found that CoQ10 can help improve overall immune function and might even lower risk for cancer.
Starting around the 1960s, researchers began testing the effects of CoQ10 on immune function and found that people with certain types of cancers (myeloma, lymphoma, breast, lung, prostate, pancreas and colon) had reduced levels in their blood.
Recently, studies involving adult women with breast cancer found that when patients supplemented with CoQ10, the women’s conditions improved. (10)
6. CoQ10 and Cognitive Health
In those with cognitive impairments, such as Parkinson’s disease, increased oxidative stress in a part of the brain known as ‘substantia nigra’ is thought to contribute to symptoms.
CoQ10 has been shown to offset decreases in activity of mitochondrial electron transport chains that affect nerve channels and brain function, and studies show that people with cognitive disorders tend to have reduced levels of CoQ10 in their blood. (11)
Several studies have investigated the effects of CoQ10 in individuals with Parkinson disease.
One randomized, placebo-controlled trial that evaluated the efficacy of 300, 600 or 1,200 milligrams a day given to 80 people with early Parkinson’s disease found that supplementation was well-tolerated and associated with slower deterioration of cognitive functions compared to the placebo.
Other trials have shown that around 360 milligrams a day taken for four weeks moderately benefited Parkinson’s disease patients. (12)
Who Should Consider Taking CoQ10?
According to work done by Oregon State University, natural synthesis of CoQ10, plus dietary intake, appears to provide sufficient amounts to help prevent deficiency in healthy people — however, our natural ability to convert CoQ10 into its active form called ubiquinol declines during the aging process. (13)
This decline is most apparent in people over the age of 40, particularly those who are taking a statin drug.
It’s also been found that people with diabetes, cancer and congestive heart failure tend to have decreased plasma levels of coenzyme Q10.
For these reasons, CoQ10 is often recommended for people with heart problems such as Cardiovascular disease and Atherosclerosis.
However, CoQ10 has also shown great promise for those suffering from:
- High cholesterol (especially when taking statin drugs!)
- High Blood Pressure
- High Blood Sugar Levels
- Cognitive disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s
- Hormone imbalances
CoQ10 Supplement Dosage:
CoQ10 comes in two different forms — ubiquinol and ubiquinone.
It seems that the optimal daily intake of CoQ10 is up to 500 mg, without exceeding the maximum recommended daily dosage of 1,200 mg. (16)
Because CoQ10 is a fat-soluble compound, its absorption is slow and limited. However, taking CoQ10 supplements with food can help your body absorb it up to three times faster than taking it without food. (17)
CoQ10 does not accumulate in the blood or tissue after you stop supplementing with it. Therefore, its continued use is recommended to see its benefits. (20)
Supplementing with CoQ10 appears to be well tolerated by humans and have low toxicity. (21)
In fact, participants in some studies showed no major side effects taking daily doses of 1,200 mg for 16 months. (22)
However, if side effects appear, it is recommended to divide the daily dose into two to three smaller doses.
While you can easily consume CoQ10 as a supplement, it can also be found in some foods. It appears that CoQ10 is similarly absorbed in capsule form or through foods. (23)
The following are foods that contain CoQ10:
- Organ meats: Heart, liver and kidney
- Some meats: Pork, beef and chicken
- Fatty fish: Trout, herring, mackerel and sardine
- Vegetables: Spinach, cauliflower and broccoli
- Fruit: Oranges and strawberries
- Legumes: Soybeans, lentils and peanuts
- Nuts and seeds: Sesame seeds and pistachios
CoQ10 Precautions and Side Effects
Although it’s considered to be very safe overall and has been used in the medical field for many years, CoQ10 side effects can sometimes include:
- Mild insomnia, elevated levels of liver enzymes, rashes, nausea, upper abdominal pain, dizziness, sensitivity to light, irritability, headache, heartburn and fatigue.
- Interacting with statin drugs: Coenzyme Q10 supplements can decrease the anticoagulant efficacy of statins like warfarin and other common cholesterol-lowering medications (such as those known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor statins). Talk to your doctor about being monitored if you take these medications.
- In some cases, CoQ10 supplementation might also lower blood sugar and cause a decrease in insulin requirements. People with diabetes who are taking medications to control blood glucose should monitor their conditions if taking CoQ10.
- Always read dosage instructions and start with a lower dose, working your way up. You can minimize side effects by splitting up your daily dose in smaller doses around 100 milligrams.
- If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, mention any supplements you’re taking to your doctor to ensure they are safe.
CoQ10 is a fat-soluble, vitamin-like compound that seems to have many health benefits.
It is involved in the production of cellular energy and serves as an antioxidant.
These properties make it helpful in the preservation of cells and the prevention and treatment of some chronic diseases.
CoQ10 has been shown to help improve heart health and blood sugar regulation, assist in the prevention and treatment of cancer and reduce the frequency of migraines.
It could also reduce the oxidative damage that leads to muscle fatigue, skin damage and brain and lung diseases.
CoQ10 can be found as a supplement that seems to be well tolerated. Additionally, it’s found in some foods like animal organs, vegetables and legumes.
Since CoQ10 production decreases with age, adults of every age could benefit from more of it.
Whether you consume more foods with a high CoQ10 content or take supplements, CoQ10 could benefit your health.