Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant that is required by every cell of our body to process energy and function properly. CoQ10 occurs naturally in the body, but its levels in the body decrease as we age.
Many neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, fibromyalgia, diabetes, muscular and cardiovascular diseases, have been associated with low levels of CoQ10 (1).
Although CoQ10 is found in meat, fish and whole grains, these are not enough to raise the levels of this essential element in our body. CoQ10 is also available in supplement form which might help treat heart conditions and Parkinson’s disease.
Here’s all that you need to learn about this antioxidant.
What is CoQ10?
CoQ10 is an essential nutrient made by our body and stored in the mitochondria of our cells (2). In its active form, it is known as ubiquinone or ubiquinol. Our body needs CoQ10 to play several key roles.
Our cells use CoQ10 to convert the energy we consume from carbohydrates into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is essential for healthy metabolism, stronger bones, and neurological and muscle functioning.
CoQ10 works as an antioxidant along with vitamin E, vitamin C, and selenium to prevent free radical damage to our cells (3).
Although CoQ10 is present in every cell of the body, higher concentrations are found in heart, kidneys, lungs, and liver.
How much CoQ10 do we need?
Our body naturally produces CoQ10 in sufficient quantities. A quarter of CoQ10 in the blood comes from food sources like meat poultry and fish.
Increasing age and some medical conditions like vitamin B6 deficiency, mitochondrial diseases, and statin treatment side effects are associated with low levels of CoQ10.
People with cancer, diabetes, and congestive heart failure also have a decreased level of CoQ10. In some rare cases, a person may suffer from primary coenzyme Q10 deficiency. This genetic defect prevents the body from synthesizing this compound.
We can all benefit from consuming CoQ10 supplements as we age.
There is no fixed ideal dose of CoQ10. Various studies have used doses ranging from 50 mg to 1,200 mg per day. You can split these during the day. Generally, a dose of CoQ10 is between 100 mg to 200 mg.
Different brands of supplements can have different strengths and ingredients, so it is essential to check with a doctor or a dietician before you start taking these supplements.
Health benefits of CoQ10 supplements
1. Helps produce energy
Adequate levels of CoQ10 are essential for the body to produce energy for vital processes like muscle cell regeneration. CoQ10 helps in the synthesis of energy from carbohydrates and fats into a form of energy required by the cells called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
CoQ10 is an essential cofactor in the mitochondrial electron transport pathway. It accepts electrons during fatty acid and glucose metabolism and then transfers them to electron receptors (4).
CoQ10 is also helpful in improving fatigue related to exercise. During one study, 36 obese subjects were given 200 mg of coenzyme Q10 per day for 12 weeks. The results showed that the fatigue levels of these individuals decreased significantly (5).
Since ATP is essential for many vital processes in the body like muscle contraction (including heart) maintaining CoQ10 levels is critical for the body.
2. Improves heart health
Coenzyme Q10 also plays an integral part in supporting strong, and healthy hearts. It makes the heart cells more efficient at producing the energy that they need and also helps protect the heart from oxidative damage.
Statins are lipid-lowering medications that inhibit the activity of HMG-CoA reductase, a critical enzyme in cholesterol and CoQ10 biosynthesis.
In such cases, doctors CoQ10 supplementation as it helps restore their natural levels and counteract the other side effects of statins including muscle pain (6).
According to a 2014 study of 204 people, long-term treatment of patients with heart failure improved symptoms and reduced major adverse cardiovascular events (9).
3. Slows down the aging process
CoQ10 is believed to slow down age-related DNA damage. Supplementing with CoQ10 protects the aging heart against stress (10).
It also helps to keep the muscles healthy and prevents bone and muscle injury by protecting the skeletal muscle structure (11). CoQ10 also helps restore oocyte mitochondrial function and fertility during reproductive aging (12).
CoQ10 also helps in keeping the skin young and healthy and preventing UV damage. When applied topically to the skin, CoQ10 helps prevent oxidative damage caused by UV rays (13).
4. Plays a vital role in cancer prevention and treatment
Oxidative stress can cause cell damage, and this can increase the risk of cancer. CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant which protects the cells from oxidative damage and promotes their health and survival.
CoQ10 also helps transport proteins across membranes and separate digestive enzymes from the cell to maintain optimal pH. This process helps protect the body from diseases like cancer.
Studies have shown that CoQ10 can slow down or even reverse the spread of breast cancer in high-risk patients (14).
According to another study, supplementation with CoQ10 reduced oxidative stress in the colon of mice. This research suggests that CoQ10 can be used to prevent colon cancer in high-risk patients (15).
CoQ10 also helps in increasing the impact of chemotherapy drugs and reduces its side effects. It can also improve the survival rate for people with end-stage cancers.
According to a 2009 study, when patients with end-stage cancer were treated with CoQ10, it improved their median survival time by five months. In total 76 percent of the patients survived longer than was predicted (16).
5. Cognitive benefits
CoQ10 helps in the healthy functioning of the brain, which helps improve cognitive function. According to studies, people with age-related memory impairment have low levels of CoQ10. So, supplementation by CoQ10 may assist in maintaining brain health.
Oxidative stress in a part of the brain called substantia nigra can contribute to the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. CoQ10 improves the decreased activity of mitochondrial electron transport chains is such patients and improves their brain function (17).
Although there has been no human trial using CoQ10 for Alzheimer’s, some research studies have found positive results.
6. Can treat and prevent migraines
Mitochondrial dysfunction increases calcium uptake by the cells, excessive production of free radicals and decreases oxidative protection. This ultimately causes energy failure in neurons and astrocytes, thus triggering migraine and depression (20).
CoQ10 improves mitochondrial function and decrease inflammation that may occur during migraines.
During a 2011 study, researchers gave120 children and adolescents CoQ10 supplement or a placebo over 224 days. The results showed that the children who took CoQ10 showed earlier improvement in headache severity (21).
Additional studies have also shown that CoQ10 helps reduce the frequency of headaches, make them shorter in duration and less severe (22).
7. Helps support fertility in men and women
CoQ10 is required for the production of ATP. Since CoQ10 levels decline with age, supplementation is vital for maintaining fertility.
CoQ10 also helps in improving fertility issues in men. Numerous clinical trials have shown that supplementation with CoQ10 helps improve sperm motility, sperm count, fertilization rates, sperm morphology and increases antioxidants in seminal plasma (25, 26).
8. Improves symptoms of fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that is associated with widespread pain in the muscles and bones, areas of tenderness and general fatigue. Several clinical trials have found that CoQ10 is helpful in treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
According to studies, supplementation with CoQ10 helps improve overall pain symptoms, reduces headaches, tiredness, restored mitochondrial function, improves cholesterol markers and reduces oxidative stress (27, 28).
9. Could help with diabetes
During a 2014 study, 50 patients with diabetes received 150 mg of CoQ10 or a placebo for 12 weeks. The results of the study showed a significant reduction in fasting blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1C (31).
10. Helps protect the lungs
Our lungs are highly susceptible to oxidative damage. Poor antioxidant protection from oxidative damage and low levels of CoQ10 can lead to lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (32).
According to a 2005 study, treating bronchial asthma patients with CoQ10 helped reduce asthma and the need for steroid medication (33).
Another study showed that CoQ10 has favorable effects on muscular energy metabolism in patients with chronic lung disease (34).
Side effects of CoQ10 supplements
- Although most people tolerate CoQ10 well, it can cause some side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach upset and loss of appetite.
- It can also cause skin rashes in some people.
- CoQ10 can also lower blood pressure, so if you suffer from low blood pressure, it is best to avoid CoQ10 supplements.
- Not enough is known about the effect of CoQ10 during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so it is best to avoid use.
- People undergoing chemotherapy with alkylating agents should use CoQ10 with caution. CoQ10 can lower the efficacy of these drugs.
- If you have to undergo surgery, it is the best stop using this supplement at least two weeks before the surgery is scheduled. CoQ10 can interfere with the blood pressure control during operation.
CoQ10 is an antioxidant that is involved in the production of cellular energy. It fights oxidative stress and prevents cellular damage. Its numerous benefits include improved heart, brain, and lung health.
It also aids in the treatment and prevention of cancer and improves fertility in men and women. Though CoQ10 is found in meat, poultry, and fish, you can also take it as a supplement.
Since CoQ10 production in the body decreases with age, it is beneficial for people of all ages.