Coenzyme Q10 and its Benefits


CoQ10 or coenzyme Q10 is a coenzyme that is produced naturally in the body and is found in every cell and tissue. It is involved in a number of biological functions including the production of energy, and as an antioxidant neutralising free radicals that could otherwise cause damage to cells and tissue.

CoQ10 exists in two forms in the human body: Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol. Ubiquinol represents more than 90% of the total CoQ10 in the body and is more readily used than Ubiquinone.

Optimum levels of CoQ10 in the body has been linked to stronger hearts, healthy ageing, higher quality in sperm and sharper minds.

How does CoQ10 work in the body?

This coenzyme is found in every cell, but the highest concentrations are found in the heart, liver, kidneys and pancreas [1]. Tissue levels of CoQ10 decrease as people age, due to increased requirements, decreased production or insufficient intake of chemical raw materials needed for synthesis. It works in the body in more than one way:

  • As a coenzyme supporting enzymes in the body in their various biochemical functions. [2]
  • CoQ10 is a vital participant in the chain of chemical reactions taking place in the cell mitochondria that generate energy within cells from fat and other nutrients. [3]
  • Working as an antioxidant preventing cell damage from harmful free radicals by neutralising them. [4]
  • Other antioxidants, vitamin C and vitamin E, are recycled by CoQ10, maximising their protective potential within tissue. [5]

Are you deficient in coenzyme Q10?

One indication that CoQ10 levels are low is the energy levels drop, both physically and mentally. Common symptoms include being tired upon wakening, and exhausted after any type of exertion. People can have poor concentration, memory lapses and may suffer from mood changes, irritability and depression.

Experiencing pain and muscle aches or continually suffering from colds due to a weakened immune system are other symptoms associated with low levels of CoQ10.

The body produces less CoQ10 as we age, and there are common medications that interfere with the synthesis of CoQ10, especially statins [6]. This type of deficiency is described as secondary coenzyme Q10 deficiency.

A rare condition called primary coenzyme Q10 deficiency is a genetic disorder affecting the synthesis of ubiquinone in the body. The condition is usually diagnosed early in life, and presenting symptoms can include renal failure, intellectual disability and delayed physical development [7].

Both primary and secondary coenzyme Q10 deficiency can be improved by supplementing Co Q10 [8].

Benefits of CoQ10

Heart health

Supplementation with CoQ10 is beneficial for people using cholesterol lowering statin medication [9]. Side effects associated with the decrease in the body’s own production of coQ10 when using statins include muscle weakness and pain (myopathy), fatigue and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease [10].

Coenzyme Q10 is essential for the production of energy and is required in abundance in cells with high energy requirements such as the heart. Cardiac cells are extremely sensitive to a deficiency in CoQ10 [11].

The antioxidant properties of coQ10 and the way that it relaxes blood vessels has been shown to help prevent and treat heart conditions. It reduces the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and the build-up of plaque in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis [12].

Besides general improvements in the types of fats circulating in the blood, CoQ10 helps makes the blood less ‘sticky’ [13], and improves exercise tolerance in patients suffering from heart failure, hypertension, and other cardiac illnesses [14].

Chronic fatigue

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a state of profound fatigue lasting six months or longer that is not improved by bed rest and that may get worse with physical or mental activity. The fatigue significantly interferes with daily activities and work.

Besides fatigue it is characterised by persistent pain, and it is thought that free radicals inhibit the functioning of mitochondria in the cell causing sensitivity and inflammation [15]. Supplementing with CoQ10 can decrease symptoms of pain, relieve mental fatigue and increase the quality of life among sufferers of this condition [16].

Fertility

Female fertility can decline dramatically with age. Cells in the ovaries that go on to form eggs can suffer damage to their mitochondria caused by a deficiency in CoQ10. Supplementing with CoQ10 has been found to not only preserve the number of eggs available for fertilisation, but also facilitate ovulation and support the development of the egg [17].

Low sperm count, decreased mobility of the sperm and quality of the sperm cell can affect male fertility. A positive correlation was found with CoQ10 supplementation and sperm count, motility and sperm quality [18]. CoQ10 helps to support energy production in the mitochondria of the sperm cell, powering the cell to reach the female egg.

Cognitive health

With today’s ageing population, more and more individuals are experiencing cognitive decline, suffering memory loss and reduced mental performance. CoQ10 has shown neuroprotective qualities [19].

CoQ10 can help prevent oxidative damage to the brain and has been shown to help patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease [20]. Reductions in the deposition of amyloid plaque in the brain, associated with Alzheimer’s disease, have been recorded with CoQ10 supplementation [21].

Foods that are rich in Coenzyme Q10

 Although CoQ10 is made in the body, we can obtain it from foods. There are no dietary recommendations for CoQ10, but the best way to get enough is to eat a varied nutrient-dense diet.

Because the highest concentrations of CoQ10 in are body are found in brain, heart, kidney, liver and lungs, it follows that organ meats from animals are the best source of dietary CoQ10.


The best food sources of CoQ10:

Organ meats - The highest concentration is found in heart meats where CoQ10 levels are roughly three times that found in liver, and four times that found in muscle meats.

Oily fish - Sardines and mackerel contain around 50 mcg/g of CoQ10. They have the added benefit of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids which facilitate the absorption of CqQ10.

Nuts and seeds - adding nuts and seeds to your diet by sprinkling them on salads or eating them as snacks will increase dietary intake of CoQ10. Sesame seeds contain around 22 mcg/g and pistachio nuts contain 17 mcg/g, whereas a typical supplement would contain around 100mg.

Vegetables - Although not as high as concentrations found in meats and fish, vegetables are still a source of CoQ10. Parsley is the best source of CoQ10, but it’s also found in broccoli, kale and cauliflower.

Supplementing with CoQ10

How much to take?

There is no official daily value recommendation for CoQ10, but adults taking statin medication or who have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease should take around 100 to 200 mg CoQ10 per day. It was found that a dose of 150mg per day in patients with coronary artery disease improved risk markers [22].

Taking 100mg per day is also appropriate for otherwise healthy men and women as a preventive measure and to help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.

As CoQ10 is fat soluble, it is best to supplement with a meal containing fat.

Are there any side effects?

CoQ10 is generally well tolerated with no acute side effects aside from gastrointestinal distress with doses up to 3000mg daily [23].

A person should talk to their doctor before supplementing CoQ10 if they are pregnant or taking anti-coagulant medication like warfarin. It is not clear whether CoQ10 is safe during pregnancy, and supplementing alongside warfarin can increase the risk of bleeding [24].

CoQ10 benefits statin users

Both cholesterol and coenzyme Q10 are synthesised in the body from Acetyl-coA, which is a molecule involved in many biochemical reactions involving protein, carbohydrate and fat metabolism.

In this pathway, the use of statin medication blocks a stage of the conversion of Acetyl-coA into cholesterol. Because of this, statins have been found to reduce the amount of naturally occurring CoQ10 in the body.

[1] Emster, L. & Forsmark-Andree, P. (1993) ‘Ubiquinol: an endogenous antioxidant in aerobic organisms’ Clin Investig 71(6):60-65.

[2] Crane, F. (2001) ‘Biochemical functions of coenzyme Q10’ Journal of the American College of Nutrition 20(5):591-598.

[3] Zheng, A. & Moritani, T. (2008) ‘Influence of CoQ10 on autonomic nervous activity and energy metabolism during exercise in healthy subjects’ Journal of Nutritional Science 54(4):286-290.

 [4] Li, L. Du, J. Lian, Y. et al. (2016) ‘Protective effects of coenzyme Q10 against hydrogen peroxide induced oxidative stress in PC12 cell: The role of Nrf2 and antioxidant enzymes’ Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology 36(1):103-111.

[5] Wang, X. Rainwater, D. Mahaney, M. et al. (2004) ‘Cosupplementation with vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 reduces circulating markers of inflammation in baboons’ The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 80(3):649-655.

[6] Nawarskas, J. (2005) ‘HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors and coenzyme Q10’ Cardiology in Review 13(2):76-79.

[7] Quinzil, C. & Hirano, M. (2011) ‘Primary and secondary CoQ10 deficiencies’ Biofactors 37(5):361-365.

[8] Potgieter, M. Pretorius, E. & Pepper, S. (2013) ‘Primary and secondary coenzyme Q10 deficiency: the role of therapeutic supplementation’ Nutrition Reviews 71(3):180-188.

[9] Mabuchi, H. Nohara, A. Kobayashi, J. et al. (2007) ‘Effects of CoQ10 supplementation on plasma lipoprotein lipid, CoQ10 and liver and muscle enzyme levels in hypercholesterolemic patients treated with atorvastatin: A randomised double-blind study’ Atherosclerosis 195(2):182-189.

[10] Ramsunder, N. (2015) ‘Side effects of statins: review’ South African Journal of Diabetes and Vascular Disease 12(2):48-50.

[11] Mortensen, S. (2008) ‘Overview on coenzyme Q10 as adjunctive therapy in chronic heart failure. Rationale, design and end-points of “Q-symbio” – A multinational trial’ Biofactors 18(1-4):79-89.

[12] Lee, B. Huang, Y. Chen, S. et al. (2012) ‘Coenzyme Q10 supplementation reduces oxidative stress and increases antioxidant enzyme activity in patients with coronary artery disease’ Nutrition 28(3):250-255.

[13] Mohseni, M. Vafa, M. Zarrati, M. et al. (2015) ‘Beneficial effects of coenzyme Q10 supplementation on lipid profile and interleukin-6 and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 reduction, preliminary results of a double-blind trial in acute myocardial infarction’ International Journal of Preventative Medicine 6:73.

[14] Keogh, A. Fenton, S. Leslie, C. et al. (2003) ‘Randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of coenzyme Q10 therapy in class II and III systolic heart failure’ Heart Lung & Circulation 12(3):119-213.

[15] Meeus, M. Nijs, J. Hermans, L. et al. (2013) ‘The role of mitochondria dysfunctions due to oxidative and nitrosative stress in the chronic pain or chronic fatigue syndromes and fibromyalgia patients: peripheral and central mechanisms as therapeutic targets?’ Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets 17(9):1081-1089.

[16] Miyamae, T. Seki, M. Naga, T. et al. (2013) ‘Increased oxidative stress and coenzyme Q10 deficiency in juvenile fibromyalgia: amelioration of hypercholesterolemia and fatigue by ubiquinol-10 supplementation’ Redox Report 18(1):12-19.

[17] Ben-Meir, A. Burstein, E. Borrego-Alvarez, A. et al. (2015) ‘Coenzyme Q10 restores oocyte mitochondrial function and fertility during reproductive aging’ Aging Cell 14(5):887-895.

[18] Mancini, A. De Marinis, L. Littarru, G. et al. (2005) ‘An update of coenzyme Q10 implications in male infertility: Biochemical and therapeutic aspects’ Biofactors 25(1-4):165-174.

[19] Matthews, R. Yang, L. Browne, S. et al. (1998) ‘Coenzyme Q10 administration increases brain mitochondrial concentrations and exerts neuroprotective effects’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 95(15):8892-8897.

[20] Yoritaka, A. Kawajiri, S. Yamamoto, Y. et al (2015) ‘Randomised double-blind placebo-controlled pilot trial of reduced coenzyme Q10 for Parkinson’s disease’ Parkinsonism & Related Disorders 21(8):911-916.

[21] Yang, X. Dai, G. Li, G. et al. (2010) ‘Coenzyme Q10 reduces β-Amyloid plaque in an APP/PS1 transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease’ Journal of Molecular Neuroscience 41(1):110-113.

[22] Lee, B. Huang, Y. Chen, S. et al. (2012) ‘Coenzyme Q10 supplementation reduces oxidative stress and increases antioxidant enzyme activity in patients with coronary artery disease’ Nutrition 28(3):250-255.

[23] Shults, C. Flint, B. Song, D. et al. (2004) ‘Pilot trial of high dosages of coenzyme Q10 in patients with Parkinson’s disease’ Exp Neurol 188(2):491-494.

[24] Shalansky, S. Lynd, L. Richardson, K. et al. (2007) ‘Risk of warfarin-related bleeding events and supratherapeutic international normalised ratios associated with complementary and alternative medicine: a longitudinal analysis’ Pharmacotherapy 27(9):1237-1247.