CoQ10: Are You Missing Out On The Surprising Benefits Of This Powerful Antioxidant


Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) has a reputation for being an antioxidant extraordinaire, purported to boost energy levels, stop migraines dead in their tracks, improve skin texture, help regulate blood sugar, and treat infertility. CoQ10 is so essential, it’s also known as ubiquinone or ubiquinol, which shares the same root word as ubiquitous. Because it’s a crucial component of practically every cell in our bodies, our bodies even produce CoQ10 to keep a steady supply on hand. It’s found in particularly high concentrations in the heart, liver, kidney, and pancreas. (1)

The body typically makes a sufficient supply of CoQ10, but levels may decline with age and heart disease, especially after 60. But what is CoQ10 exactly—and are its impressive array of benefits proven? Here’s what you need to know.

supplement pills in wooden sleep next to green plant leaf

The powerful antioxidant CoQ10, also known as ubiquinone or ubiquinol, is a crucial component of practically every cell in our bodies.

What is CoQ10?

Although it’s present in all living cells, and even cells that were once living, within the cell structure CoQ10 favors our mitochondria. Mitochondria—often referred to as the powerhouses of cells—are specialized structures that produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the main source of energy utilized by cells. (2) Mitochondria, which produces 90 percent of the body’s energy, depends on CoQ10 for smooth functioning. (3) Without these types of biochemical reactions, your cells would be unable to grow and divide.

Who is at risk of CoQ10 deficiency?

Individual CoQ10 levels can be low for a number of reasons, but the most common culprit is age. (4) Additionally, genetic diseases that interfere with normal CoQ10 production cause what healthcare providers call a “primary” CoQ10 deficiency. (5) Another factor that could lower CoQ10 levels consists of a handful of conditions that deplete the body of CoQ10 and could potentially put you at risk of deficiency. People with the following conditions may be good candidates for supplementation. (6)

  • Nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B6 deficiency
  • Genetic defects in CoQ10 synthesis or utilization
  • Diseases that put stress on the cells, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease
  • HIV/AIDS, muscular dystrophies, depression, and Parkinson’s disease
  • Mitochondrial diseases
  • Oxidative stress due to aging
  • People who take statins
  • Smokers

Did you know?
A blood test that measures CoQ10 levels is the only way to determine if you need CoQ10 supplementation. (7)

In general, CoQ10 deficiency is hard to ascertain, as most of the signs are fairly vague and could be attributed to many factors. For example, muscle weakness and fatigue, coordination struggles, high blood pressure, and cognitive challenges can all be caused by countless factors, one of which is low CoQ10 levels. (8)

What are CoQ10 benefits?

Heart conditions

CoQ10 may improve symptoms of congestive heart failure. Although findings are not conclusive, CoQ10 might be instrumental in reducing blood pressure. Other research points that CoQ10, taken in conjunction with other supplements, might reduce heart damage in people who’ve had bypass and heart valve surgeries. (9) Because many experts believe that heart failure is caused by a deficit in cellular energy—often caused by mitochondria dysfunction—CoQ10 supplementation may help address the imbalance.

nurse pushing a man in a wheelchair out of the hospital

CoQ10 supplementation before heart surgery can reduce its adverse effects including the risk of postoperative complications.

Surgery prep

Studies suggest that introducing CoQ10 prior to heart surgery, including bypass surgery and heart transplantation, can reduce the adverse effects of surgery. CoQ10 ameliorates the damage caused by free radicals, strengthens heart function, and lowers the incidence of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias) during the recovery phase. One study found that CoQ10 supplementation before surgery resulted in a shorter length of hospital stay and reduced risk of postoperative complications. (10) Of course, you should not take any supplements before surgery unless your provider approves.

Cervical health

Because CoQ10 functions as a mega-powerful antioxidant, studies suggest that CoQ10 may also inhibit cervical cancer cells. This supports the theory that CoQ10’s antioxidant and other effects may be valuable in fighting cancer. In one study, blood levels of CoQ10 and vitamin E were measured in patients with a form of cervical cancer. Results showed levels of CoQ10 and Vitamin E were significantly lower in patients with cervical cancer. (11) The findings suggest that low CoQ10 levels may play a role in heightening one’s cervical cancer risk.

Fertility

CoQ10, an energy powerhouse, may extend its catalyzing effect to pregnancy as well. Although more research is needed, a spate of recent studies suggests that CoQ10 may have a positive effect on women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). A 2018 study suggests that CoQ10 could effectively combat oxidative stress in women with a poor ovarian response. The pregnancy rate was higher in the CoQ10 group than in the control group, although the difference was not statistically significant. (12)

Skin

Aging skin suffers from a loss of elasticity, which causes dryness and the appearance of wrinkles. Some of this is due to reduced levels of CoQ10, the enzyme that supports the skin’s ability to produce collagen and elastin. (13) Plus, CoQ10’s anti-oxidative prowess neutralizes the harmful free radicals that cause the appearance of aging. CoQ10 can be taken both internally or applied topically to combat skin damage. One study found that when taken as a supplement, CoQ10 significantly reduced wrinkles and improved skin smoothness. (14)

Migraines

Some research suggests that CoQ10 might decrease the frequency of debilitating headaches, known as migraines, that can last hours. In respect to migraines, CoQ10 acts as an anti-inflammatory and boosts mitochondrial function, both of which help manage pain. In a 2018 study, CoQ10 was shown to significantly reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of migraine headaches (15)—although it may take several months of taking it as a supplement for the effects to kick in. (16)

Physical performance

Since CoQ10 is a key player in energy production, it’s believed that this supplement might improve your physical performance. Research in this area remains controversial, however, one 2015 study showed that CoQ10 supplements, along with selenium, were linked to an improvement in vitality, physical performance, and quality of life in older adults. (17)

older man and woman walking with dog outdoors

With its energy-boosting properties, CoQ10 can play a vital role in improving both, vitality and the quality of life in older adults.

Longevity

CoQ10 supplements may also be a powerful adjunct for immune health, as cells involved with immune function require an adequate supply of CoQ10 to counteract oxidative stress. In one study, CoQ10 and vitamin B6 taken together and separately boosted blood levels of both CoQ10 and CD4 T lymphocytes (helper T-cells), a type of disease-fighting immune system cells. (18)

Diabetes

CoQ10 may also prove significant for diabetes. Some studies have shown it to be effective in reducing and regulating blood sugar and improving insulin secretion and resistance. A 12-week study in 50 people with diabetes found that 100 mg of CoQ10 per day had a favorable effect on blood sugar, markers of oxidative stress and insulin resistance, compared to the control group. (19)

On the horizon

There are many other emerging but promising areas where CoQ10 may have a significant impact, including as a preventive treatment for low sperm count, HIV, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, gum disease, and many other conditions. (20) Research, however, is still preliminary and inconclusive.

How much CoQ10 should you take?

The recommended dosage for CoQ10 spans a wide gamut. Studies have used doses of CoQ10 ranging from 50 milligrams to 1,200 milligrams in adults, sometimes split into several doses over the course of a day. A typical suggested dosage is 50 milligrams to 200 milligrams. (21) Consult with your healthcare provider for dosage advice. It’s worth noting that different supplement brands have different ingredients and strengths.

What to look for in a supplement

Not all CoQ10 supplements possess the same efficacy. CoQ10 comes in two different forms—ubiquinol and ubiquinone. Your body converts ubiquinone into the active form, ubiquinol. Studies suggest that ubiquinol has superior bioavailability than CoQ10 because it accounts for 90 percent of the CoQ10 that’s in the blood. (22) On the other hand, ubiquinone is easier to find and tends to be cheaper. (23) It’s worth consulting with your healthcare practitioner to help you figure out the best kind of supplement for you.

Can you get CoQ10 naturally from foods?

Only small amounts of CoQ10 are available from food, with the most concentrated amounts found in fatty fish, chicken, and beef. (24) Dietary supplements are a common way of increasing your CoQ10 levels.

Did you know?
Take CoQ10 with a meal, as it’s fat-soluble and best absorbed when taken with food that contains a fat source. (25) Note that water-soluble formulas do not need to be taken with fat.

What are the risks of taking CoQ10?

CoQ10 is generally well tolerated, even when taken at extremely high doses of 1,000 mg per day or more. However, some people may experience mild side effects, such as diarrhea, headache, nausea and skin rashes. (26) There is a slight potential that taking CoQ10 in the evening may cause insomnia in some people, so it’s best to take it earlier in the day. (27) Finally, CoQ10 supplements can negatively interact with medications such as blood thinners, antidepressants, and chemotherapy drugs. (28) Before you explore supplemental CoQ10 please remember to seek your healthcare provider’s guidance.

The bottom line

CoQ10 is a relatively well-tolerated and safe supplement that may benefit a wide variety of people looking for a natural way to boost their health and longevity.

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  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3178961/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4625866/
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15612-mitochondrial-diseases
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-coenzyme-q10/art-20362602
  5. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/primary-coenzyme-q10-deficiency
  6. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coenzyme-q10#section2
  7. http://www.clevelandheartlab.com/blog/horizons-coq10-what-are-the-heart-health-benefits/
  8. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/primary-coenzyme-q10-deficiency
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3855291/
  10. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/coenzyme-Q10
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4112525/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5870379/
  13. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221837206_Coenzyme_Q10_enhances_dermal_elastin_expression_inhibits_IL-1a_production_and_melanin_synthesis_in_vitro
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27548886
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29298622
  16. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-938/coenzyme-q10
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29459830
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8503942
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29111905
  20. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-938/coenzyme-q10
  21. https://www.webmd.com/diet/supplement-guide-coenzymeq10-coq10#1
  22. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coenzyme-q10#section10
  23. http://www.clevelandheartlab.com/blog/horizons-coq10-what-are-the-heart-health-benefits/
  24. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/coenzyme-Q10
  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3178961/
  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2785862/
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK65890/
  28. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coq10-dosage#side-effects