Let’s start off by answering this question: what is CoQ10? It’s the shortened term for Coenzyme Q10, a fat-soluble compound (some refer to it as a nutrient) produced by your body and found in almost all, if not all, of your cells. Your liver is the primary place where CoQ10 is created, but other tissues, including those in your heart and skeletal muscles, kidneys, and pancreas also produce and host CoQ10.
CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant, and some experts liken it to a vitamin. In fact, some scientists, and even some marketers, refer to it as vitamin Q or Vitamin Q10. You may also hear it referred to as ubiquinone, which is considered a form of CoQ10.
Although your body produces its own CoQ10, the nutrient is also found (in relatively low doses) in food including:
- organ meats;
- beef, pork, chicken;
- fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines;
- fruit (such as strawberries or oranges);
- vegetables (like spinach and broccoli);
- legumes (i.e., lentils and peanuts);
- oils (e.g., soybean and canola);
- nuts/seeds (including pistachios and sesame seeds).
Some people get enough CoQ10 from food and what their body produces, but others don’t get enough having to do with reasons that we’ll discuss later in this blog. CoQ10 supplements can be readily found at natural food stores, big box stores, drug stores, supermarkets, specialty vitamin shops and more—both in retail brick-and-mortar locations and online.
What is CoQ10 Used For?
There are many health areas for which CoQ10 is thought to play a beneficial role, some where the benefits are more established versus those based on emerging (or fewer or inconclusive) scientific studies.
As an antioxidant, one of CoQ10’s main purposes is to fight off an abundance of free radicals that are known to cause oxidative damage in your body. Oxidative stress creates all kinds of health problems, including cell destruction, DNA impairment, inflammation, neurological problems, heart conditions and cancer.
CoQ10 is also known to help produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which the American Chemical Society says is the primary energy source for functions such as muscle contraction, nerve impulse transmission and protein production.
Here are some of the areas where CoQ10 may help:
- Heart Health—some research has shown that there may be CoQ10 benefits for the heart, specifically in the areas of heart failure and other coronary artery diseases.
- Blood Pressure—CoQ10 is believed to help widen the blood vessels by increasing nitric oxide availability. This, in turn, allows the blood (and oxygen) to flow more freely, thus decreasing the risk of high blood pressure. The research, however, is mixed and as this article recommends, consult with your doctor about whether CoQ10 supplements should be considered as part of your arsenal in combatting high blood pressure.
- Migraines—Low levels of CoQ10 have been associated with people who suffer from migraines. Some research has found that taking CoQ10 supplements may reduce the frequency and length of these often-debilitating headaches, as well as the inflammation they cause, but may not necessarily decrease the pain associated with migraines.
- Skin Health—Antioxidants in general (in cosmetic and dietary supplement forms) are marketed as beneficial for your skin by protecting against cell damage and slowing the effects of aging from free radical oxidative and environmental stressors. When it comes to CoQ10, it’s possible that it might improve skin elasticity and also help the body produce more collagen, but the body of evidence could benefit from more research. This small study found that significantly lower CoQ10 levels in a cohort of patients with melanoma compared to the control group and to those who developed metastases may suggest an association between progression of melanoma and CoQ10 deficiency. This study found that supplementing with CoQ10 reduced wrinkles and improved skin smoothness but did not significantly impact skin hydration.
- Exercise Performance—Mitochondria are small structures in the cells that convert chemical energy to ATP. If your mitochondrial function is abnormal, your muscles can’t efficiently contract and your exercise performance is negatively impacted. Oxidative stress can also result in poor muscle function, another downer for exercise performance. CoQ10 can improve exercise performance because of its role in helping with mitochondrial function and in reducing oxidative stress. Some research has also demonstrated that CoQ10 helps reduce fatigue and increase power while exercising, both of which are important factors in exercise performance.
Who Should Consider Taking CoQ10?
Before considering whether or not CoQ10 supplements make sense for you to take, let’s first consider some additional things you should know about CoQ10. Hopefully these are points that will be relevant to your personal situation and discussed with your healthcare practitioner team.
- CoQ10 and Aging—As you age, the production levels of CoQ10 in your body decrease. This post states that sometime around turning 30, your body’s ability to manufacture its own CoQ10 starts to subside. And it’s thought that if you haven’t started supplementing with CoQ10 by at least age 50, then your CoQ10 levels by age 80 may be lower than they were at birth.
One CoQ10 supplement manufacturer explains that your body’s production of CoQ10 starts to decline in the heart even before age 30, and in the skin at around age 30. At around age 66, this article explains that your CoQ10 production will be only about 50% of what it was at age 25. These are pretty specific statements, but the article also points out that the ages mentioned will vary from person to person.
CoQ10’s decline in your body due to aging is one reason why seniors are often encouraged to take CoQ10 supplements. But there are reasons why others should consider these supplements much earlier.
- CoQ10 and Fertility—If you are a woman of child-bearing age trying to get pregnant, you—and even your male partner—may not want to wait beyond when your body’s CoQ10 manufacturing levels start to diminish. As this article explains, CoQ10 could help with fertility issues in both women and in men. For women, fertility decreases with age as the number of eggs produced, along with the quality of those eggs, declines. Because your body’s production of CoQ10 is also slowing down, the eggs are more susceptible to oxidative damage. Research suggests that supplementing with CoQ10 may help improve the quantity and quality of those eggs.
As for men, their sperm may also be subject to oxidative damage as CoQ10 production decreases, leading to lower sperm counts and poor sperm quality. The same article mentioned above says some research demonstrates that CoQ10 supplements “may improve sperm quality, activity and concentration by increasing antioxidant properties.”
- CoQ10 and Statins—Statins are one of the more commonly prescribed medicines in the U.S. with more than 35 million people taking them, according to an article in Drugs.com. These drugs are recommended for people with high cholesterol.
One of the side effects of taking statins is that it may lower your body’s natural production of CoQ10. Taking CoQ10 supplements has been shown not only to help increase your CoQ10 levels, but research also shows that CoQ10 may actually decrease the muscle pain associated for some people with taking statins.
- CoQ10 and Other Medications—In addition to statins potentially lowering the levels of CoQ10 in your body, there are other prescription medications that may do the same thing. These include fibric acid derivatives for cholesterol, beta-blockers for high blood pressure, and certain antidepressant medications.
At the same time, CoQ10 may interact with other prescription medications, potentially inhibiting the effectiveness of those drugs. Examples include some chemotherapy medications, blood-thinning medications and thyroid medications. It is highly recommended in these cases that you do not take CoQ10 supplements without first consulting with your doctor.
There are some pharmaceutical treatments that CoQ10 can partner well with. One example is that CoQ10 has been shown to work with blood pressure medications to help lower blood pressure. Some chemotherapy medications may have toxic effects on your heart, and CoQ10 has been shown to potentially reduce those effects. And CoQ10 supplements may also reduce the heart-related side effects of a beta-blocker medication used to treat glaucoma, while not interfering in the effectiveness of that drug.
In all these cases, it’s important to share all the drugs and supplements you are taking (or are considering taking) with your doctor, your physician specialist and your pharmacist to best manage potential interactions.
This article explains more.
- CoQ10 and Diabetes—This is one to watch and another to discuss with your doctor. On the one hand, oxidative damage can result in insulin resistance, a condition present in those with diabetes whereby your body doesn’t use insulin efficiently, leading to further diabetes complications. As an antioxidant, CoQ10 may help reduce oxidative stress. This article reported on one small review article that showed CoQ10 supplementation improved blood sugar control and HDL cholesterol and lowered triglycerides in people with type 2 diabetes.
A recent meta-analysis, including 40 studies and over 2,400 participants, found CoQ10 supplementation had beneficial effects on glycemic control, especially in diabetes, and 100-200 milligrams daily of CoQ10 could achieve the greatest benefit.
On the other hand, there is some concern that CoQ10 might lower your blood sugar to the point of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), another problem that diabetes presents when blood sugar is not properly managed.
Stay tuned on this one.
- CoQ10 and Other Diseases—There are some conditions that may, themselves, result in lowering your CoQ10 levels. These include heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases, according to this piece.
Taking a CoQ10 Supplement: Is it Right for You?
If you’re considering taking a CoQ10 dietary supplement—or even if you’re already taking one—you might also want to consider testing and keeping track of your CoQ10 levels.
Although OmegaQuant doesn’t currently offer testing for CoQ10 levels, there are other laboratories that can measure CoQ10 levels in the blood. These levels may not accurately also reflect the amount of CoQ10 in tissues and cells. There are also tests available to measure CoQ10 in muscle cells and saliva. Read more here and talk to your doctor who can make a recommendation.
Earlier in this blog, we talked about how widely accessible CoQ10 supplements are, perhaps owing to their growing popularity, with supplement choices available both in brick-and-mortar store locations and online. As with all supplements, you’d be wise to choose your supplements from nationally recognized manufacturers and trusted retailers. One of the leading trade associations for the dietary supplement industry offers more tips here.
There are two forms of CoQ10: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Some experts say that ubiquinol is more bioavailable, meaning the body better absorbs it. Others say that form is not worth the added expense. We’re not taking sides, but suggest you do your own research to determine which one makes the most sense for you. (It may come down to what your preferred supplement company sells.)
When it comes to choosing the right dosage, there is no established ideal dose. However, CoQ10 is generally considered to be safe if you follow label directions and are careful about any contraindications that may apply to your particular situation (see some examples from earlier in the blog).
Side effects, should they occur, might include heartburn, nausea or diarrhea. Liver enzyme elevation has been seen in some patients taking 300 milligrams or more per day, but no liver toxicity has been reported.
A common daily dose is between 100 to 200 milligrams, although studies have been conducted at higher levels without resulting in safety concerns. This study notes that CoQ10 supplementation at 1,200 milligrams daily has been tolerated with no toxic effects. Your healthcare practitioner can discuss a dose that should be appropriate for your situation.
In summary, CoQ10 is a dietary supplement worth considering for its antioxidant properties, potential benefits for a host of different health areas, and strong safety profile. Research should continue to be conducted to reaffirm some of the benefits already discovered. It’s a smart idea to talk with a healthcare practitioner who not only knows CoQ10 but also knows your individual health circumstances.