Coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10, is a compound that helps generate energy in your cells.
Your body produces coenzyme Q10 naturally, but its production tends to decrease with age. Fortunately, you can also get coenzyme Q10 through supplements or foods.
Health conditions like heart disease, brain disorders, diabetes, and cancer have been linked to low levels of coenzyme Q10.
It is not clear whether low levels of coenzyme Q10 cause these diseases or are a result of them.
One thing is for certain: plenty of research has revealed CoQ10’s wide range of health benefits.
Here is all you need to know about coenzyme Q10.
What is coenzyme Q10?
CoQ10 is a compound made by your body and stored in the mitochondria of your cells.
The mitochondria are in charge of producing energy. They also protect cells from oxidative damage and disease-causing bacteria or viruses.
Coenzyme Q10 production decreases as you age. Thus, older people seem to be deficient in this compound.
Some other causes of CoQ10 deficiency include:
- Nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B6 deficiency
- 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
Research has shown that coenzyme Q10 plays several key roles in your body.
One of its primary functions is to help generate energy in your cells. It’s involved in making adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is involved in energy transfer within cells.
Its other crucial role is to serve as an antioxidant and protect cells from oxidative damage.
Excessive amounts of free radicals lead to oxidative damage, which can interfere with regular cell functioning. This is known to cause many health conditions.
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 some chronic diseases have been linked to low levels of coenzyme Q10.
Coenzyme Q10 is present in every cell of your body. However, the highest concentrations are found in organs with the greatest energy demands, such as the heart, kidneys, lungs, and liver.
Why do people take coenzyme Q10?
Although coenzyme Q10 plays a key role in the body, most healthy people have enough CoQ10 naturally. There is some evidence that adding more – in the form of CoQ10 supplements – may be beneficial. Increasing age and some medical conditions are associated with dropping levels of coenzyme Q10. But in these cases, it’s uncertain that adding CoQ10 will have an effect.
CoQ10 has been used to treat many different conditions. There’s evidence that coenzyme Q10 supplements can lower blood pressure slightly. CoQ10 is also used to treat heart failure and other heart conditions, possibly helping to improve some symptoms and lessen future cardiac risks when combined with regular medications, but the evidence is conflicting.
Though still controversial, some preliminary evidence suggests that coenzyme Q10 may help to prevent or treat the adverse effects, such as muscle pains and liver problems, of taking statin-type cholesterol drugs.
Preliminary studies have shown that coenzyme Q10 may slow, but not stop, the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Additional research is needed to confirm this effect.
CoQ10 has also been studied as a preventive treatment for migraine headaches, though it may take several months to work. It has also been studied for low sperm count, cancer, HIV, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, gum disease, and many other conditions. However, the research has not found any conclusive benefits. Although coenzyme Q10 is sometimes sold as an energy supplement, there is no evidence that it will boost energy in a typical person.
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Health benefits of coenzyme Q10
The following is a list of the 9 main benefits of CoQ10.
1. Coenzyme Q10 may help treat heart failure
Heart failure is often a consequence of other heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease or high blood pressure.
These conditions can lead to increased oxidative damage and inflammation of the veins and arteries.
Heart failure occurs when these problems affect the heart to the point that it is unable to regularly contract, relax or pump blood through the body.
To make matters worse, some treatments for heart failure have undesirable side effects, such as low blood pressure, while others could even further reduce coenzyme Q10 levels.
In a study of 420 people with heart failure, treatment with coenzyme Q10 for two years improved their symptoms and reduced their risk of dying from heart problems.
Also, another study treated 641 people with CoQ10 or a placebo for a year. At the end of the study, those in the coenzyme Q10 group had been hospitalized less frequently for worsening heart failure and had fewer serious complications.
It seems that treatment with coenzyme Q10 could assist with restoring optimal levels of energy production, reduce oxidative damage and improve heart function, all of which can aid the treatment of heart failure.
Summary: Coenzyme Q10 seems to help treat heart failure by improving heart function, increasing ATP production, and limiting oxidative damage.
2. Coenzyme Q10 could help with fertility
Female fertility decreases with age due to a decline in the number and quality of available eggs.
CoQ10 is directly involved in this process. As you age, coenzyme Q10 production slows, making the body less effective at protecting the eggs from oxidative damage.
Supplementing with coenzyme Q10 seems to help and may even reverse this age-related decline in egg quality and quantity.
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Similarly, male sperm is susceptible to the effects of oxidative damage, which may result in reduced sperm count, poor sperm quality, and infertility.
Several studies have concluded that supplementing with coenzyme Q10 may improve sperm quality, activity and concentration by increasing antioxidant protection.
Summary: The antioxidant properties of coenzyme Q10 could help improve sperm quality and reduce the decline in the number and quality of eggs in women.
3. Coenzyme Q10 might help keep your skin young
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it’s widely exposed to damaging agents that contribute to aging.
These agents can be internal or external. Some internal damaging factors include cellular damage and hormonal imbalances. External factors include environmental agents, such as UV rays.
Harmful elements can lead to reduced skin moisture and protection from environmental aggressors, as well as the thinning of the layers of the skin.
Applying coenzyme Q10 directly to the skin can reduce the damage from internal and external agents by increasing energy production in skin cells and promoting antioxidant protection.
CoQ10 applied directly to the skin has been shown to reduce oxidative damage caused by UV rays and even decrease the depth of wrinkles.
Lastly, people with low levels of coenzyme Q10 seem to be more likely to develop skin cancer.
Summary: When applied directly to the skin, coenzyme Q10 can reduce sun damage and increase antioxidant protection. Supplementing with CoQ10 may also help decrease the risk of skin cancer.
4. Coenzyme Q10 could reduce headaches
Abnormal mitochondrial function can lead to increased calcium uptake by the cells, the excessive production of free radicals, and decreased antioxidant protection. This can result in low energy in the brain cells and even migraines.
Since coenzyme Q10 lives mainly in the mitochondria of the cells, it has been shown to improve mitochondrial function and help decrease the inflammation that may occur during migraines.
A study showed that supplementing with coenzyme Q10 was three times more likely than a placebo to reduce the number of migraines in 42 people.
Additionally, coenzyme Q10 deficiency has been observed in people suffering from migraines.
One larger study showed that 1,550 people with low coenzyme Q10 levels experienced fewer and less severe headaches after treatment with CoQ10.
What’s more, it seems that coenzyme Q10 not only helps treat migraines but may also prevent them.
Summary: Supplementing with coenzyme Q10 seems to help prevent and treat migraines, as it increases mitochondrial function and reduces inflammation.
5. Coenzyme Q10 could help with exercise performance
Oxidative stress can affect muscle function, and thus, exercise performance.
Similarly, an abnormal mitochondrial function can reduce muscle energy, making it hard for muscles to contract efficiently and sustain exercise.
Coenzyme Q10 can help exercise performance by decreasing oxidative stress in the cells and improving mitochondrial functions.
One study investigated the effects of coenzyme Q10 on physical activity. Those supplementing with 1,200 mg of CoQ10 per day for 60 days showed decreased oxidative stress.
Moreover, supplementing with coenzyme Q10 can help increase power during exercise and reduce fatigue, both of which can improve exercise performance.
Summary: Exercise performance can be affected by oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction. coenzyme Q10 can help lower oxidative damage, promote exercise capacity and decrease fatigue.
6. Coenzyme Q10 could help with diabetes
Oxidative stress can induce cell damage. This can result in metabolic diseases like diabetes.
Abnormal mitochondrial function has also been linked to insulin resistance.
Coenzyme Q10 has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar levels.
Supplementing with coenzyme Q10 might also help increase CoQ10 concentrations in the blood by up to three times in people with diabetes who typically show low levels of this compound.
Also, one study had people with type 2 diabetes supplement with coenzyme Q10 for 12 weeks. Doing so significantly reduced fasting blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1C, which is the average of blood sugar levels over the past two to three months.
Lastly, coenzyme Q10 might help prevent diabetes by stimulating the breakdown of fats and reducing the accumulation of fat cells that could lead to obesity or type 2 diabetes.
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Summary: Supplementing with coenzyme Q10 can help increase insulin sensitivity and improve blood sugar levels.
7. Coenzyme Q10 might play a role in cancer prevention
Oxidative stress is known to cause cell damage and affect their function.
If your body is unable to effectively fight oxidative damage, the structure of your cells can become damaged, possibly increasing the risk of cancer.
Coenzyme Q10 may protect cells from oxidative stress and promote cellular energy production, promoting their health and survival.
Interestingly, cancer patients have been shown to have lower levels of CoQ10.
Low levels of coenzyme Q10 have been associated with up to a 53.3% higher risk of cancer and indicate a poor prognosis for various types of cancer.
What’s more, one study also suggested that supplementing with coenzyme Q10 may help reduce the chance of cancer recurrence.
Summary: Coenzyme Q10 plays a critical role in the protection of cell DNA and cell survival, both of which are strongly linked to cancer prevention and recurrence.
8. Coenzyme Q10 is good for the brain
Mitochondria are the main energy generators of brain cells.
Mitochondrial function tends to decrease with age. Total mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to the death of brain cells and diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Unfortunately, the brain is very susceptible to oxidative damage due to its high fatty acid content and its high oxygen demand.
This oxidative damage enhances the production of harmful compounds that could affect memory, cognition, and physical functions.
Coenzyme Q10 may reduce these harmful compounds, possibly slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Summary: Coenzyme Q10 has been shown to protect brain cells from oxidative damage and reduce the action of harmful compounds that can lead to brain disease.
9. Coenzyme Q10 could protect the lungs
Of all your organs, your lungs have the most contact with oxygen. This makes them very susceptible to oxidative damage.
Increased oxidative damage in the lungs and poor antioxidant protection, including low levels of coenzyme Q10, can result in lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
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Furthermore, it has been shown that people suffering from these conditions present lower levels of CoQ10.
A study demonstrated that supplementing with coenzyme Q10 reduced inflammation in individuals who had asthma, as well as their need for steroid medications to treat it.
Another study showed improvements in exercise performance in those suffering from COPD. This was observed through better tissue oxygenation and heart rate after supplementing with CoQ10.
Summary: Coenzyme Q10 can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation that results in diseases of the lungs.
Dosage and side effects of coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 comes in two different forms — ubiquinol and ubiquinone.
Ubiquinol accounts for 90% of the coenzyme Q10 in the blood and is the most absorbable form. Thus, it’s recommended to choose from supplements containing the ubiquinol form.
If you want to buy a coenzyme Q10 supplement containing the ubiquinol form, then there is an excellent selection on Amazon.
The standard dose of coenzyme Q10 ranges from 90 mg to 200 mg per day. Doses up to 500 mg seem well-tolerated, and several studies have used even higher doses without any serious side effects.
Because coenzyme Q10 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.
Additionally, some products offer a solubilized form of coenzyme Q10, or a combination of CoQ10 and oils, to improve its absorption.
Your body does not store CoQ10. Therefore, its continued use is recommended to see its benefits.
Supplementing with CoQ10 appears to be well tolerated by humans and has low toxicity.
Participants in some studies showed no major side effects taking daily doses of 1,200 mg for 16 months.
However, if side effects appear, it is recommended to divide the daily dose into two to three smaller doses.
Summary: Since coenzyme Q10 is fat-soluble, it is recommended to take it with food or use products that combine it with oils to improve its absorption. Supplementing with CoQ10 appears to be well tolerated by individuals and has low toxicity.
Food sources of coenzyme Q10
While you can easily consume CoQ10 as a supplement, it can also be found in some foods.
It appears that coenzyme Q10 is similarly absorbed in capsule form or through foods.
The following foods contain CoQ10:
- Organ meats: Heart, liver, and kidney
- Some muscle 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
- Oils: Soybean and canola oil
Summary: Coenzyme Q10 is found in some foods, especially organ meats. Also, it seems that it’s as equally well absorbed through foods as it is through supplements.
Coenzyme Q10 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.
Coenzyme Q10 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 coenzyme Q10 production decreases with age, adults of every age could benefit from more of it.
Whether you consume more foods with a high coenzyme Q10 content or take supplements, CoQ10 could benefit your health.
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