Last updated on May 12th, 2019
CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10) is a long-chain, fat-soluble, vitamin-like substance found in all the cells of our body. It is made primarily right inside the mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouses, right where it is needed most. Importantly, CoQ10 are redox molecules, meaning that they can either give up electrons (oxidation) or accept electrons (reduction) in chemical reactions.
CoQ10 is an essential co-factor in at least three important processes in the body:
- Cellular energy production: CoQ10 is needed for ATP (adenosine triphosphate) synthesis.
- Powerful cellular and lipid antioxidant: Neutralizes harmful free radicals, known as reactive oxygen species (ROS), right where 90% of them are produced — in the mitochondria where energy is made via the electron transport chain of the respiration pathway and stored as ATP. Another important action is that Coenzyme Q10 recycles the antioxidant vitamins C and E once these vitamins have neutralized free radicals.
- Regulation of endothelial cell function.
CoQ10 is made by our cells and we obtain small amounts from food, but people can become deficient in this essential molecule for several reasons:
- Aging: Our bodies make less CoQ10 with age and most of us cannot make up the difference with food, so most people over 40 need a daily CoQ10 supplement.
- Lifestyle: Sugar, alcohol, tobacco, lack of exercise, obesity, lack of sleep can all lead to decreased CoQ10 production.
- Diseases: Cancer, Parkinson’s can decrease CoQ10 in our bodies.
- Medications: Statins in particular reduce CoQ10 in the body.
Coenzyme Q10 is particularly important for optimal function of organs with the highest concentrations of mitochondria, including the heart, the brain, the liver, the kidneys and the eyes. Individual cells of these organs can contain 1000 or more mitochondria. It’s no wonder that these organs are the most common ones to loose function in humans as they have the highest energy demands and this in turn produces the greatest amount of potentially damaging free radicals. Mitochondrial deficiencies thus often tend to show up as poor function in these organs first.
It is currently accepted that mitochondria are responsible for 80-90% of our cellular energy production, although scientists are just discovering the role of structured water (EZ water) and the absorption of infrared from sunlight as important energy sources. In fact, our bodies may also be using the chlorophyll molecules from the plants we eat to obtain energy from sunlight! Some say, that perhaps mitochondria only accounts for 50% of our energy production, but this is just speculation for now.
The health and function of our mitochondria are the main factors that determine our biological aging at the cellular level. Mitochondria not only produce energy inside the cell in the form of ATP, but they also produce heat and light.
In any case, mitochondrial health is central to our good health, longevity, healing and well-being.
CoQ10 Forms : Ubiquinone vs Ubiquinol
First of all, Coenzyme Q10 in its raw material crystalline form cannot be absorbed by the body, so avoid CoQ10 tablets or capsules containing powder. The CoQ10 crystals need to be heated above 50 degrees Celsius to separate the molecules and then be dissolved in a fatty substrate such as a vegetable oil, which is then sealed inside soft gelatin or other capsules.
Ubiquinone is the stable, oxidized (electron acceptor) form of CoQ10 and it is by far the most researched form, showing significant health benefits in thousands of rigorous clinical trials. Ubiquinone is the form that plays a vital role in cellular mitochondrial energy production.
Ubiquinol is the very unstable, reduced (electron donor) form of CoQ10. This is the super-antioxidant form, which mops up all those harmful free radicals.
There has been a lot of marketing hype spread around Ubiquinol being the superior, most absorbed form, but there has been far less research done on it than on Ubiquinone. Ubiquinol is much more expensive, but it is so unstable that it is easily oxidized back to the Ubiquinone form; if not during manufacture or in the capsule, then for certain in the stomach before it even gets to the small intestine where it gets absorbed. So is Ubiquinone a waste of money?
It is possible that the body’s ability to convert Ubiquinone to Ubiquinol declines with age, so that would suggest greater benefits in taking Ubiquinol. ALthough some high quality Ubiquinol supplements may maintain CoQ10 in its un-oxidized state, it still has to get through the stomach to the small intestine in that form. The jury is still out on whether Ubiquional is really better than Ubiquinone.
Nearly 100% of the CoQ10 absorbed by the small intestines is in the Ubiquinone form, whether or not you took Ubiquinone or Ubiquinol. Most is then converted into Ubiquinol in the lymph system and about 6-8 hours after ingestion it peaks in the blood. Absorption into the blood via the lymph system is slow due to the large size of the CoQ10 molecules.
About 96% of the Coenzyme Q10 molecules that make it into the blood circulation are in the form of Ubiquinol. This lipophilic (capable of combining with lipids/fats) antioxidant form is useful for cleaning up many of the abundant free radicals in the blood plasma.
Depending on whether CoQ10 is in the blood, lymph or inside the mitochondria of the cells, it is converted to the form that is needed in that particular situation. In the blood and lymph fluid, CoQ10 primarily serves as an antioxidant. Inside the mitochondria, it supports energy metabolism by switching back and forth between the two forms many times per second.
However, the most critical place where Coenzyme Q10 is needed is in the mitochondria and nearly all CoQ10 supplements fail to deliver it there.
MitoQ : Targeted CoQ10 for Mitochondria
SKQ : Targeted Plant-Equivalent of CoQ10
PQQ : Promising Mitochondria-generator, Antioxidant and Cancer-fighter
PQQ (Pyrroloquinoline quinone) is not a form of Coenzyme Q10, but it is a powerful mitochondrial booster and antioxidant, and it could be considered like the sister of CoQ10. Taken together, these two supplements could have potent complimentary effects.
Which Supplements Do I Recommend?
All these Ps and Qs might be getting confusing by now, so I will make it simpler by recommending the supplements that I take myself and I have found to be the best currently available. For most vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients it is best to get it from a healthy, balanced, nutrient-dense diet, but CoQ10 is one that is worth supplementing, especially for people over 40 or those with certain chronic illnesses.