By Dr. Mercola
Dr. Barry focuses on clinical research development and collaboration and on the development of the technical, business and commercial translation of products and technology.
Dr. Barry earned his bachelor's degree in biology from Boston College; his Ph.D. in chemistry/biochemistry from the University of Maryland; postdoctoral research in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School; and was a staff researcher in neuropathology at Harvard Medical School.
He is an active member of numerous professional associations including the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
What's the Difference Between Ubiquinol and CoQ10?
There is a good reason why CoQ10 is one of the most popular supplements sold today. Largely because it is a highly effective metabolic agent and when people use it they tend to notice an improvement, especially in their energy levels.
Ubiquinol is the reduced, electron-rich form of coenzyme Q10. Although it was well known within research circles since the late 1950's, it wasn't introduced commercially until about 2006. Ubiquinol is highly unstable, and therefore not suitable to be put into pill or capsule form. That all changed once a company finally developed the appropriate technology to stabilize ubiquinol.
"The thing with ubiquinol is, because it's electron rich, it's called 'reduced, this is a chemical term that means it has a couple extra electrons… [which makes it] unstable in light and air. In other words, it will oxidize," Dr. Barry says.
Conventional CoQ10 (also known as ubiquinone) is in essence oxidized CoQ10; it is "electron deficient." Why does this electron deficiency make CoQ10 a less preferable alternative compared to the more electron-rich ubiquinol? And why do you need either of these substances in the first place?
Dr. Barry explains:
"In terms of the molecular structure… when we are talking about oxidized and reduced coenzyme Q10, It's the same molecule; either with, or without, those two extra electrons.
The fundamental importance of ubiquinol and coenzyme Q10 is metabolic energy… It's an essential component of the electron transport chain in the mitochondria facilitating the generation of ATP. The mitochondria are responsible for production of around 95 percent of the ATP you produce in your body, and CoQ10 is an essential component of that.
… Ubiquinol has two extra electrons. Because it has those two extra electrons and can donate them, it is a very strong lipid soluble antioxidant… Strong enough to help regenerate vitamin E and vitamin C [in your body]… Those are the two main functions [of CoQ10 in either form]. There are other functions, such as gene expression... [and] cell signaling as well. [But] the two main functions is cellular energy and cellular protection."
When trying to tease out the real difference between ubiquinol and CoQ10, it can help to compare them to two other antioxidants: vitamin E and vitamin C. In essence, taking CoQ10 is like taking oxidized vitamin C or E—something that would not be recommended—so why wouldn't you take un-oxidized ubiquinol?
"The vitamin C and vitamin E that you buy is the reduced form," Dr. Barry explains. "After it acts as an antioxidant in your body it becomes oxidized. No one would ever sell oxidized vitamin C or would ever sell oxidized vitamin E. Nor would you want to buy it. If you took your vitamin C pill and put it out on the counter today, tomorrow morning it would be brown. It would be oxidized. "
More Reasons Why Ubiquinol is the Better Alternative
According to Dr. Barry, every single publication on ubiquinol to date has shown that the bioavailability is higher with ubiquinol when compared to CoQ10, in some cases the difference is very small, while in others it is a large difference. Even though the per mg dose costs more, it is FAR more cost effective than conventional CoQ10 as much less is needed to achieve the same or better result. The increased absorption rate means you only need to take about one-third the amount of ubiquinol compared to CoQ10. In general, ubiquinol is therefore about two-thirds cheaper than a CoQ10 supplement, and you get greater benefits. However all of this depends upon your age and state of health.
Interestingly, although it's a lipid (fat) soluble antioxidant, which typically means it's more difficult to absorb, ubiquinol is 'peculiar' in that its rate of absorption appears to be based on your body's metabolic demand—which is great. Meaning, if you're healthy, you absorb less, and when you're ill, or struggle with chronic disease, your body will absorb more. Its absorption rate is basically self-adjusting so it becomes very difficult to take too much.
That said, since it is lipid-soluble, you do need to take it with a meal - or if not with a meal then with a teaspoon of peanut butter or olive oil to ensure optimal bioavailability and absorption.
When it comes to safety, the two versions are virtually identical. The reduced form, ubiquinol, has the same safety profile as conventional coenzyme Q10, which is extremely safe. There are no known side effects or drug-drug interactions, and both have been shown safe even in large dosages.
Even better, a number of studies have demonstrated that CoQ10 is absorbed and metabolized in exactly the same way as CoQ10 from a food source. And according to Dr. Barry, you'd have to consume close to three pounds of sardines a day to get the recommended dose of CoQ10. (Dark leafy green vegetables and organ meats are also CoQ10-rich sources.)
As for dosage, studies indicate that ubiquinol is ideally taken chronically, meaning every day for extended periods of time. Studies show that if you currently do not take any Q10 then taking 200 to 300 milligrams a day, (preferably divided and taken twice a day) to start plasma levels plateau after about two to three weeks, you can then cut that down to a 100 mg/day maintenance dose. If you're acutely or chronically ill, you can keep taking the larger dosage.
Can Ubiquinol Slow Down the Aging Process?
One of the most dramatic benefits of ubiquinol lies in its potential to slow down the aging process. There's compelling evidence indicating this, which was instrumental in convincing me of its clinical benefits, and motivating me to start taking ubiquinol personally.
One powerful example of ubiquinol's anti-aging effects was an early mouse study, performed by researchers at a major medical center in Japan. Specially-bred mice that age very rapidly were used to test CoQ10 and ubiquinol against a control group that did not receive supplementation. At the end of the study, when the mice were the equivalent age of 90 to 100 in human years, the differences between the control group and the ubiquinol groups were quite dramatic.
While the control mice were near death, the ubiquinol mice ran around like teenage mice, and the only difference during their entire lifespan was taking ubiquinol.
"What we found is that, in just about every study that has been conducted with ubiquinol (and each one is necessarily a direct comparison to coenzyme Q10), there is a very dramatic metabolic and physiological effect seen with ubiquinol that you don't necessarily see with conventional coenzyme Q10. That study convinced me that there was something different going on with ubiquinol. It also convinced Kaneka," Dr. Barry says.
"… [Kaneka] realized that there is something very profound going on here. There is a very dramatic difference between the two… That's when we knew we really had a tiger by the tail. We were looking at something that's very different from conventional coenzyme Q10. Again, that's been reflected in almost every study since, either to a slight degree in some cases or to a very dramatic degree in every publication since then."
Needless to say, this may have profound implications for humans as well.
Now, we know that ubiquinol plays a vital role in ATP production—which is the basic fuel for every cell in your body; without this most basic cellular energy production you die. Your body does produce ubiquinol naturally, in fact it is the predominant form in most healthy cells, tissues and organs, but as you age, not only does this conversion become less efficient; your cellular energy (ATP) production also diminishes. And that's when you start seeing chronic and acute disease associated with aging and the aging process itself.
"Without the efficient production of ATP (energy produced in your mitochondria) in each cell in your body, that [age-related] deterioration is even faster," Dr. Barry explains.
"As we age we produce less CoQ10 and more importantly the efficiency of conversion to the reduced ubiquinol form diminishes hence we become more susceptible to the deleterious effects of aging; much more susceptible to acute and chronic disease. So it's very important to keep those energy levels up. It doesn't even have to be acute or chronic disease… Fatigue is one of the top five complaints by adults in the U.S… There is a reason for that and there is a connection with ubiquinol in terms of energy production.
… In the mitochondria, there is a thing called the electron transport system. What happens in the transfer of electrons, in that electron transport chain is fundamental to ATP production in every mitochondria in every cell in our body. Ubiquinol is an essential component in the electron transport chain and If ubiquinol is not there… you don't get the ATP production.
So it's not that it's this intangible thing that may or may not work, that you may or may not need, it's absolutely critical. You do produce it in your body… but that [natural production] diminishes as you age. Importantly, [if] the conversion of oxidized coenzyme Q10 to reduced ubiquinol in your body [is] not efficient, then you'll have problems."
Other Diseases that May Benefit from Ubiquinol
Another area where ubiquinol is a crucial supplement is for those taking statins to lower their cholesterol. Statin drugs are very effective in reducing cholesterol levels but not very selective. Statins inhibit a key enzyme (HMG-CoA Reductase) that also share a common metabolic pathway with CoQ10 production. Therefore statins also reduce your body's ability to produce CoQ10 and therefore ubiquinol, and once your body gets depleted, you're putting your heart health at great risk. Remember, ubiquinol is absolutely vital for optimal energy production within each cell, and your heart is one of the most energy demanding organs in your body. Since statins diminishes your ubiquinol, these drugs also promote premature aging throughout your entire body…
But ubiquinol isn't just for those taking statins or those wanting to prolong life in general. Against diseases such as Huntington's and Parkinson's in particular, CoQ10/ubiquinol has been found to slow progression of the disease. Research over the years has also looked into its benefits for diseases such as:
To learn more about ubiquinol and CoQ10, there are independent sites that offer good information, such as www.ubiquinol.org where you can learn more.