What Is CoQ10?

Dr. Group
by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Last Updated on
An organic cabbage. The human body produces CoQ10 on its own, more so when your health is in good order.

Already available as an over-the-counter antioxidant and energy-booster, many scientists and healthcare professionals are calling CoQ10 the “essential natural nutrient,” and even, “nutrient of the century.” The fascination with this powerful coenzyme is palpable and ever-growing. It is becoming so popular that CoQ10 is close to becoming a household name much like fish oil, ginseng, and omega-3.[1, 2]

What Is CoQ10?

CoQ10, also known as coenzyme Q10, ubiquinone, or ubidecarenone is a coenzyme that works as a powerful antioxidant and plays a fundamental role in the energy process. ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, is responsible for the release of energy in your cells. The conversion of energy from carbohydrates and fats to ATP requires the presence of CoQ10.[3, 4, 5]

This incredible synthesis takes place inside all cells of the body, primarily in the mitochondria. Also known as the “power plants” of the cells, mitochondria are cellular structures bound by the mitochondrial membrane which is where CoQ10 is contained. Once CoQ10 starts working, it converts to a reduced form; an antioxidant called ubiquinol, named for its ubiquitous qualities. In this state, it can support the health of the cell.[6, 7]

The History of CoQ10

The discovery of CoQ10 was made by Professor Frederick L. Crane when he isolated the coenzyme from beef heart mitochondria in 1957. It was American chemist Dr. Karl Folkers who determined its chemical structure the following year. In 1970, Folkers and Italian researcher Dr. Gian Paolo Littarru discovered that a deficiency in CoQ10 could be associated with heart issues. This monumental discovery is one of the reasons CoQ10 is used for heart health today.[8]

Japan was the first to approve the use of CoQ10 in congestive heart failure treatments. They were also the first to perfect the technology necessary to produce CoQ10 in sizeable quantities, making large clinical trials a reality.

The Nobel Prize was given to Dr. Peter Mitchell in 1978 for his research on CoQ10 and his definition of the biological energy transfer that occurs at the cellular level. Subsequently, this affected almost all biochemistry research to this day, opening up many new possibilities regarding the treatment and prevention of many health concerns.[9]

Clinical trials of CoQ10 rose in the 1980’s due to increased opportunities for its use. This resulted in it becoming a widely available dietary supplement by the 1990’s. In 2006, because of its popularity and consumer demand, Kaneka Corporation, one of the founding members of The International Coenzyme Q10 Association, built the first CoQ10 manufacturing plant in North America. After two years of research, they were the first to produce the reduced version of CoQ10, ubiquinol.[10] Now, both CoQ10, and ubiquinol are available as a supplement.

Currently, several studies and clinical trials using CoQ10 are being conducted to find out additional ways in which it can support a healthy body and overall wellness.

Is CoQ10 a Vitamin?

CoQ10 has been called a vitamin and has been referred to as “vitamin Q.” Although it is a nutrient with qualities similar to one, it is not a vitamin as the body can create its own supply. There are some who argue that vitamin D is also manufactured by the body, so, why is it classified as a vitamin and CoQ10 still referred to as a nutrient? Even though vitamin D can be made by your body, it can’t be manufactured on its own. Your largest organ, your skin, needs to be exposed to sunlight to make it, whereas CoQ10 is naturally synthesized in the liver. Many people, however, refer to it as a vitamin regardless of its non-vitamin status.[11, 12, 13]

CoQ10 Benefits

CoQ10 is now one of the most studied compounds due to its therapeutic potential and its many benefits. CoQ10 as a natural antioxidant can support your immune system, overall vitality, and maintain healthy DNA. More specifically, it has been linked to stronger hearts, healthy aging, higher quality in sperm, and sharper minds.[14]

Supports Heart Health

Everyone wants a healthy heart. When your heart is running low on ATP production, it causes energy levels to decrease, leading to possible coronary damage. CoQ10 raises ATP levels which may help maintain the health of this important muscle and keep heart support at maximum levels. Currently, studies are being conducted to see if CoQ10 may be able to help with cardiac arrhythmia.[15, 16, 17]

Helps Energy Levels

Low CoQ10 levels in the human body can result in a lack of energy as CoQ10 is responsible for the activation of ATP. A supplement can aid in the restoration of your CoQ10 supply, allowing it to do its job which is to finish the energy conversion process. Because a decrease in energy can lower the amount of oxygen in your body, it may be very beneficial to individuals who maintain a vigorous exercise routine. There are also claims that it may help boost metabolism.[18]

Promotes Healthy Aging

CoQ10 is essential for the health of almost all human tissues and organs. Natural levels of it diminish as we get older, causing our bodies to produce smaller amounts of ATP. This decline may result in lower amounts of energy which can deplete the oxygen needed for healthy organs. Some studies showed that adding CoQ10 as a supplement to a healthy diet may increase ATP production, raising energy levels. Because of its antioxidant qualities, CoQ10 helps prevent the generation of free radicals, keeping proteins, lipids, and DNA in cells from getting damaged. Harm to these cells can lead to unhealthy aging. It can also affect how we think and function. In certain studies, through diet and supplements, CoQ10 was shown to reduce cell damage.[19]

Encourages Mental Sharpness

Your brain needs exercise just like the rest of your body does. A decline in CoQ10 over time can affect both the mind and body. Because of CoQ10’s antioxidant properties and natural ability to produce energy, it may help with brain support and keep damage at bay. A healthy diet and regular exercise coupled with a supplement may help contribute to a sharper mind. Currently, studies are looking for ways in which CoQ10 can improve cognitive abilities and memory skills.[20]

Upholds Healthy Joints & Muscles

Joints and muscles are part of your musculoskeletal system and are necessary for movement and everyday physical activities. These parts of our anatomy encounter wear and stress on a daily basis. Studies have been done to see if CoQ10 can reduce the effects of strain and discomfort in joints and muscles. Although test results are mixed, many showed that CoQ10 might be a potential aid in keeping cartilage thickness and degradation down, promoting joint health and wellness. It may also help maintain healthy muscle tissue.[21, 22]

Does CoQ10 Interfere With Sleep?

CoQ10’s natural ability to boost energy levels seems to be related to an overall feeling of wellness and productivity, which can promote a healthy night’s sleep. When a CoQ10 supplement was used daily in smaller servings, most people experienced their usual sleep patterns or even a healthier rhythm of sleep. In a few cases, however, higher portions of CoQ10 resulted in restless sleep cycles or insomnia.[23]

Are Your CoQ10 Levels Too Low?

Most people are aware of vitamin deficiencies in their bodies. However, many don’t realize that they can also become deficient in a crucial nutrient such as CoQ10. A CoQ10 deficiency naturally occurs as we get older, but can still happen in younger adults. Certain illnesses can also be a cause. The areas most affected by this deficiency are the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Listed below are some symptoms related to a CoQ10 deficiency: [24, 25]

  • Bouts of fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Aching or stiff muscles
  • Blood sugar imbalance
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Edema (swelling)

Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re worried that you may have a deficiency. A supplement or a diet rich in CoQ10 are two options that are currently available.

Foods Containing CoQ10

Several foods naturally contain CoQ10 and are easily attainable. If you’re looking for a diet that is rich in this antioxidant make sure that your shopping cart contains these foods:[26]

  • Whole grains
  • Vegetable oils
  • Vegetables
  • Oily fish
  • Certain nuts
  • Organ meats
  • Red meats

Which Foods Have the Highest Levels of CoQ10?

Out of all of the CoQ10-rich foods available, red meat products are near the top of the chart, with pork and beef hearts providing the highest concentration of the nutrient. Wild, grass-fed animals, showed an even greater supply of the CoQ10 than animals that were grain-fed. Organic canola and soybean oils turned out some impressive numbers as well, with mackerel and sardines coming in close behind. Going nuts may be a good thing, as healthy levels of CoQ10 are found in roasted peanuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios. Surprisingly, milk and orange juice have the lowest amounts of the nutrient. Regardless of the high CoQ10 content found in meat, it is always encouraged to avoid meats as they can be toxic for your colon and promote serious health issues.

Can I Get CoQ10 In My Diet Without Meat?

If meat is a “no-no,” and you’re looking for more of a leafy, vegetarian diet, you have some tasty CoQ10-rich options. Roasted and ground soybeans yield an impressive amount of CoQ10, as do roasted sesame seeds. Whole, dry soybeans are also high up on the scale, so make sure to indulge in some edamame for your next meal. Spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower are also great sources, especially if used together in a salad. Tossing in some walnuts and sesame oil, both of which are rich with CoQ10, will add even more benefits.[27]

Does CoQ10 Lose Potency After Cooking?

Although CoQ10 is a dynamic nutrient, it too has its weakness — extreme heat. Make sure you take into consideration the way in which the foods mentioned above are cooked. Boiling has been found to have little effect on CoQ10’s survival, while frying reduces CoQ10 content by up to 32 percent. Eating your meat and veggies rarer and raw-er seems the best way to experience the maximum benefits of CoQ10 through food.[28]

Which Is Better: CoQ10-Rich Foods or a Supplement?

AAlthough a natural diet involving CoQ10-rich foods is encouraged, a supplement can be more beneficial. Environmental toxins in the body coupled with age or illness can warrant higher levels of CoQ10 than food alone can provide. Currently, over-the-counter supplements come in two versions — CoQ10 and the reduced or converted version, Ubiquinol. The preference of most health care professionals is the Ubiquinol supplement because it relieves your body of the conversion process, allowing the antioxidant to work right away.[29]

Many in the healthcare industry, however, prefer the CoQ10 version, arguing that the conversion process is quick and effective. It also seems to be less expensive. These supplements come in different forms — capsules, sprays, hard tablets, softgels, and mixed with other nutrients in wellness products.[30]

CoQ10 Dosage

CoQ10 or ubiquinol is manufactured in quantities ranging from 22 to 400 milligrams. The most popular supplements are in the range of 30 to 200 milligrams per day. These supplements are ingested once or several times daily, depending on a healthcare professional’s recommendation. Two main points are considered when determining a supplemental serving — age, and the reason CoQ10 is needed. People under 40 generally don’t need a large serving because their bodies are still producing healthy amounts of the nutrient. People over 40, however, may require a more substantial helping. CoQ10 doesn’t start to decrease until after the age of 20, so it is best for adults 18 years of age or older.[31]

CoQ10 Safety Information & Side Effects

Although there are many benefits attached to CoQ10, there are still a few risks. Just like other dietary supplements, the induction of highly concentrated compounds into the body may cause mild to severe side effects depending on an individual’s health. Side effects, although rare, have been seen in larger servings of CoQ10, or those just starting the supplement.[32] These side effects include:

  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Lowered blood sugar
  • Nausea
  • Increased risk of blood clotting in patients who use certain medications
  • Diarrhea

Dividing daily servings into two or three smaller portions may help reduce side effects. If an individual’s blood pressure is already low, it is recommended they continue to monitor it, as CoQ10 may have the ability to lower blood pressure.[33] Check with your healthcare professional for side effects due to certain drug interactions. CoQ10 is at its safest when used by healthy adults.

Is CoQ10 Safe During Pregnancy?

Although there has been limited research done to prove that CoQ10 or ubiquinol supplementation is safe for pregnancy, the results have been promising. In one study of 235 women with specific pregnancy-related risks, the results showed that a daily supplement of CoQ10 lowered these issues. According to other research, CoQ10’s nutritional qualities in the mitochondria and its ability to increase energy production may have a positive impact on pregnancy outcomes in women over 35. It may also improve pregnancy success rates in general. Because there have been limited studies conducted on this topic, however, it may be best to take this supplement before or after pregnancy. Regardless, always let your doctor know if you are currently using a supplement or are thinking about taking one.[34]

Final Thoughts on CoQ10

Every day, CoQ10 is becoming more common as a nutritional supplement. Even though CoQ10 has demonstrated breakthroughs in many areas of health and wellness, some in the medical community believe that its praises shouldn’t be sung just yet.[35] Why the hesitancy? Many in the industry are still unconvinced of CoQ10’s effectiveness, primarily due to mixed results in clinical trials.[36] Most studies, however, have shown the positive impact CoQ10 has on health, including studies using placebos.[37] Results showed a difference in the non-placebo patients who were supplementing with a real CoQ10 nutrient as well as those who started out with a placebo and eventually took CoQ10.[38]

The verdict of most seems to be in favor of CoQ10. One reason being its vitamin-like qualities. Many people take a vitamin, like vitamin B-12, or a multivitamin supplement every day to stay healthy. This routine is why many believe a daily CoQ10 supplement may be beneficial for things vitamins alone can't affect. Its antioxidant qualities, natural ability to boost energy, and its support of DNA and organ health, make CoQ10 a promising daily addition.[39]

Is CoQ10 Right for You?

If your doctor feels that you need a little boost in your CoQ10 levels and he or she can recommend a safe supplemental serving, then maybe it’s right for you.

The low risk-factor and high-health results point to a supplement being beneficial for overall wellness. Most results with the use of this supplement are seen more predominantly in the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas where the levels of CoQ10 are naturally higher.[40] Because of mounting positive evidence, Global Healing Center added CoQ10 as the main ingredient to Cell Fuzion™, our powerful, advanced antioxidant formula that helps maintain DNA integrity, mitochondrial function, and healthy cell cycles.

Your CoQ10 Story

Do you take a CoQ10 supplement? Do you know someone who does? If you’ve switched to a diet rich in components that promote CoQ10 levels, have taken, or are currently using, a CoQ10 supplement, we’d love to hear from you. Tell us how CoQ10 has helped you, or someone you know.

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