Coenzyme Q10 (aka CoQ10 and ubiquinone) is a simple molecule that is naturally produced in our cells’ mitochondria. CoQ10 has the important role of helping convert sugar into energy or ATP—an energy source that’s essential for helping cells perform their primary functions. Coenzyme Q10 is used in enzyme systems that provide 90 percent of a cell’s energy, making it critical to our health.
CoQ10: An invaluable antioxidant
A second function of CoQ10 is to act as a natural, potent antioxidant. Antioxidants travel the body in search of free radicals that create what is called oxidative stress. Free radicals are also natural, forming as a byproduct of metabolism, but form at a greater rate when the body is exposed to environmental and lifestyle factors such as excessive sunlight, smoke and exhaust, poor diet and alcohol consumption.
Oxidative stress occurs because free radicals are unstable molecules looking to find stability in another molecule—rendering the secondary molecule unstable. This chain of events can lead to disruption of healthy cells, cell death and damage to tissues, similar to what is believed to happen during the aging process. That’s why ample antioxidants are critical to us as we age.
As with many important nutrients, natural CoQ10 production decreases with age. What makes CoQ10 different is that it is the only fat-soluble antioxidant our bodies naturally produce that has a special ability to restore itself back to its healthy state after successfully scavenging free radicals—making it an invaluable antioxidant in the fight against aging.
Coenzyme Q10 and heart health
In healthy heart tissue, CoQ10 is found in abundant supply. In fact, since the heart is the most active muscle in the body and uses the most energy, its cells tend to produce the highest concentrations of CoQ10. Individuals with heart conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a history of heart attack or congestive heart failure tend to have lower levels of CoQ10. It’s not clear whether CoQ10 deficiency is the cause of these conditions or simply an effect. Research, however, supports the idea that CoQ10 can help improve cardiovascular health and other heart conditions.
Supplementing with Coenzyme Q10
CoQ10 is found in minimal quantities in foods such as whole grains, nuts, beans, seeds, soybeans and eggs, with the highest concentrations found in meats and fish. The common doses used in research studies range between 90-400 mg/day. Ubiquinone, the oxidized form of CoQ10, is fat-soluble and is not well absorbed from the stomach and intestine. Ubiquinol, on the other hand, is the reduced, active antioxidant state of CoQ10 and is significantly better absorbed, particularly as we age.
Is it time to start supplementing with CoQ10? Natural production of CoQ10 starts to slow down around age 30-35. If you have high blood pressure or cholesterol or a family history of heart disease, supplementing with CoQ10 can help protect you from the damaging effects of oxidative stress and provide your heart with the ability to work more efficiently.
Here are some CoQ10 supplements I recommend: