Heart disease is a major illness affecting Americans today, and this condition doesn't just take its toll on a person's health, but on his or her wallet too. So much money has been spent on medications like statins that aim to treat heart disease.
At the moment, at least 1 in 4 Americans over 40 years old are taking statins. However, statins have been linked to the onset of heart disease, because these interfere with some important heart nutrients. This can lead to serious consequences for your heart and other muscles.
To help combat the negative effects of statins, CoQ10 supplements might be a helpful supplement. Keep reading to learn how CoQ10 can benefit your health, what it's commonly used for and the ideal dosage required when taking it.
What Is CoQ10?
CoQ10, short for coenzyme Q10, is a substance naturally produced by the human body. It's found in the inner membranes of your mitochondria,1,2 and is crucial for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) that's responsible for pushing energy where it's needed both within a cell and all over your body.3
There are two forms of CoQ10: ubiquinone (another given name for CoQ10) and ubiquinol, the reduced form of CoQ10 that's considered a far more effective alternative. The conversion of CoQ10 into ubiquinol happens thousands of times every second inside the mitochondria, and this process plays a big role in allowing your body to transform the food you eat into energy.
Unfortunately, as you grow older your body produces less CoQ104 and finds it challenging to transform oxidized CoQ10 into ubiquinol. This is where CoQ10 supplements come in handy, since these may help restore your body's ideal CoQ10 levels and alleviate certain conditions (more on this to come later).
Several forms of CoQ10 supplements are available today: soft gel capsules, hard shell capsules, tablets and oral sprays. CoQ10 may be added to cosmetics too.5
Food Sources of CoQ10
There are foods with CoQ10 that you can eat if you want to increase your body's levels. It's said that if you consume a balanced diet, you're likely to get enough CoQ10. Notable examples include:6,7
• Fish like wild-caught Alaskan salmon and herring
• Grass fed beef and organ meats
• Sesame seeds
Lately, research has highlighted the impact of eating chlorophyll-rich vegetables and sun exposure in improving the body's conversion of CoQ10 to ubiquinol. Chlorophyll that's consumed is transported to the blood, and once the skin is exposed to significant amounts of sunlight, chlorophyll absorbs solar radiation and promotes CoQ10 conversion into ubiquinol. You can increase your chlorophyll intake by eating these vegetables:8
✓ Beet greens
✓ Green bell peppers
✓ Bok choy
✓ Brussels sprouts
✓ Green cabbage
✓ Green beans
✓ Green peas
✓ Mustard greens
✓ Green sea vegetables
✓ Swiss chard
Fruits like green grapes or kiwis (provided that these are eaten in moderation), as well as parsley and pistachio nuts, are other chlorophyll-rich foods to consider.
Notable Health Benefits of CoQ10
To begin with, CoQ10 can provide positive impacts to cardiovascular health. Because the heart is an energy-hungry muscle, insufficient energy may cause the heart to not function properly.
Taking CoQ10 in combination with selenium may improve heart function and reduce cardiovascular mortality by nearly 50 percent among elderly people,9 as well as help decrease oxidative stress caused by damaging byproducts created by the mitochondria, minimize mitochondrial damage and promote production of new mitochondria.
On its own, CoQ10 already can fulfill these functions, but selenium aids the body in producing and accumulating CoQ10 by serving as a "booster." CoQ10 is also beneficial for the body because of the following properties:
• Anti-inflammatory — Ubiquinol may have effects on two markers for inflammation: NT-proBNP and gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT; an early marker for heart failure). Levels of these markers are reduced and the genes linked with them are downregulated with ubiquinol supplementation. This can lower the risk for heart problems and other conditions associated with chronic inflammation.
• Antioxidant — CoQ10 can help fight free radicals responsible for cell and DNA damage.10 Plus, ubiquinol is a lipid-soluble or fat-soluble antioxidant that works in the lipid portions of your body, such as the cell membranes. In fact, it's the ONLY fat-soluble antioxidant that's generated within the body and does not have to be ingested from food (although you can definitely get your share of CoQ10 or ubiquinol from food sources mentioned earlier).
According to researchers, people suffering from the following conditions may benefit from CoQ10 or ubiquinol supplementation:
✓ Chronic fatigue
✓ Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
✓ Mitral valve prolapse (ideally in combination with magnesium)
✓ Heart transplant or chronic heart failure
Furthermore, people taking these drugs may benefit from CoQ10 or ubiquinol supplements, as it can help combat the negative effects of these medicines:
✓ Acid blockers
✓ Allergy medicines
✓ Blood thinners
✓ Blood pressure drugs
✓ ACE inhibitors
✓ Angiotensin II Receptor Antagonists
✓ Cholesterol reducers (including fibrates)
✓ Diabetes medications
✓ Psychiatric drugs
What Does CoQ10 Do?
CoQ10 is good for the body's cells, as it's essential for energy production, making it vital for good health, high energy levels, longevity and improved general quality of life. CoQ10 supplements can also help alleviate a CoQ10 deficiency, reduce frequency of migraine attacks and may assist people with:11
• Age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD) by enhancing vision
• Congestive heart failure by improving heart functions
• Diabetic neuropathy by improving symptoms
• HIV/AIDS by improving immune function
• Muscular dystrophy by boosting physical performance
People with blood pressure-related health problems may find CoQ10 useful too, as low CoQ10 levels were noticeable among patients with high blood pressure levels. Research has stated that CoQ10 can help increase the body's CoQ10 levels and improve the body's ability to maintain blood pressure at a healthy range.12
Although the mechanism responsible for this feat isn't fully understood, studies have highlighted that CoQ10 helps the heart pump more powerfully, boosting circulation and allowing blood to flow more freely throughout the body. However, CoQ10's uses do not end here, as it may also help with:13,14,15,16,17
• Improving skin — Your body's CoQ10 levels decrease as you get older. Reduced CoQ10 levels can hamper the body's ability to produce collagen and elastin. These two skin proteins are responsible for making the skin appear firm (collagen) and flexible (elastin), and without these proteins, your skin will wrinkle and sag.
Another skin-related benefit of CoQ10 is its anti-aging ability that neutralizes free radicals responsible for aging. CoQ10 is able to penetrate deeply into your skin and deliver antioxidants that help with collagen and elastin production, promoting skin repair and regeneration.
The only drawback about using CoQ10 for skin health is that topically applied CoQ10 products may not contain sufficient amounts of active CoQ10 to provide these benefits.
• Promoting fertility — CoQ10 supplements may be utilized for improving fertility in men and women. High levels of CoQ10 were found in semen, and these were directly correlated with sperm count and motility. Another study also revealed that a higher CoQ10 concentration in sperm cells assisted with protecting sperm membranes from free radical damage.
Women who want to conceive must regulate their CoQ10 levels, as a recent study revealed that because of its antioxidant ability, it can help repair free radicals and improve egg quality and ovulation.
Researchers also believe that CoQ10 can play a role in female fertility because of its role in energy production. As women age, CoQ10 levels in the body are reduced, decreasing energy resources that will help endure energy-consuming activities like fertilization and embryo development.
Studies Conducted on CoQ10
After its discovery in 1957, interest surrounding CoQ10 steadily grew and paved the way for researchers to conduct studies regarding its benefits. In fact, a CoQ10 study was awarded the 1978 Nobel Prize in biochemistry, wherein British scientist Peter Mitchell thoroughly described and mapped out how CoQ10 works within a cell.18 Some studies were able to successfully reveal CoQ10's effectiveness in addressing these two conditions:
• Migraines — In recent years, studies conducted on migraines have been leaning towards it being a mitochondrial disorder, suggesting that nutritional deficiencies, such as a CoQ10 deficiency, may play a role. This is an important breakthrough, as migraines affect around 38 million Americans19 and a billion people worldwide.20
A 2016 study conducted by Dr. Suzanne Hagler and colleagues at the Cincinnati Children's Headache Center revealed that a high percentage of patients (children, teenagers and young adults) with migraines had mild CoQ10 and riboflavin or vitamin B2 deficiencies. Girls were more CoQ10-deficient, while boys were more vitamin-D deficient.21,22
In 2015, a randomized, placebo-controlled and double-blind trial revealed that a commercial formula containing 150 milligrams (mg) of CoQ10, 400 mg of riboflavin (vitamin B2), 600 mg of magnesium and other nutrients, was able to reduce migraine frequency by 50 percent and lessened its intensity, compared to a placebo.23
• Cardiovascular issues — Researchers investigated CoQ10's potential towards people with heart-related problems. The Q-Symbio study conducted in 2014 provides valuable insight on the CoQ10-cardiovascular health link. It was one of the biggest studies that sought to investigate the amount of time that would elapse until patients with either NYHA Class III or IV heart failure will encounter:24
◦ Unplanned hospitalizations because of heart failure
◦ Fatal heart attacks
◦ Need for cardiac transplantation
◦ Need for a mechanical assist pump or a heart pump
Directed by Dr. Svend Aage Mortensen of the Copenhagen University Hospital (who sadly passed away in 201525), the study involved 420 patients from nine countries, who were randomly chosen to take either soft gelatin capsules with CoQ10 daily or identical-looking placebo capsules for two years. The results indicated that:
◦ CoQ10 supplements significantly decreased risk of death from all causes by 42 percent.
◦ The CoQ10 group had a 43 percent decrease in cardiovascular death.
◦ Patients who took CoQ10 only had an 8 percent unplanned hospitalization rate, compared to the 14 percent rate for the placebo group.
◦ More of the CoQ10-treated patients (58 percent) were able to improve one or more NYHA class than the placebo group (45 percent)
◦ Only 15 percent of patients in the CoQ10 group experienced serious heart events called MACE events, compared to the 26 percent of placebo patients. This corresponds to a 43 percent relative reduction, considered a statistically significant result.
Other studies have also discovered that CoQ10 may:
• Help treat mitochondrial disorders and neurodegenerative diseases — A 2004 article published in the journal Methods in Enzymology indicates CoQ10's potential in helping treat mitochondrial disorders and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It's possible that CoQ10 can aid with increasing brain concentrations among mature and older animals.26
• Lower risk for brain disorders — A 2014 study revealed that people with the highest CoQ10 levels had a 77 percent lower risk for dementia, compared to those with low CoQ10 levels.27,28
• Boost exercise performance — When taken in 200 to 300 mg daily doses, CoQ10 may help with improving exercise performance, boosting overall energy status and enhancing peak power production and muscle recovery. In fact, athletes who may need extra ATP turnover are suggested to take a dose as high as 300 to 600 mg daily for this to take effect.29
Although these aforementioned studies have proven CoQ10's positive effects towards certain conditions, additional research may be needed, as other researchers have discovered that CoQ10 may not be as effective for the following:30,31,32
• Diabetes — Results from a 2002 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that CoQ10 can improve blood pressure and long-term glycemic control among type 2 diabetes patients. However, these improvements weren't associated with decreased oxidative stress after an assessment of F2-isoprostanes.
In a separate study published in 2013 in the journal Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica, it was found that CoQ10 helped improved glycemic control and total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL-C) cholesterol, but had no favorable effects on triglyceride (TG) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C).
• Physical capabilities of congestive heart failure patients who received standard medical therapy — According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2000, CoQ10 did not have significant effects on ejection fraction, peak oxygen consumption or exercise duration of people with congestive heart failure who received standard medical therapy.
The rates for the parameters were identical among the subject and control groups, even if the mean serum concentration of CoQ10 increased from 0.95+/-0.62 microg/mL to 2.2+/-1.2 mirog/mL among patients who received active treatment.
Side Effects of CoQ10
Generally, CoQ10 supplements are deemed safe, although it can cause occasional stomach upset. However, CoQ10 mustn't be given to people who are younger than 18 years old, unless it is done under the supervision of a health care provider or physician.33
CoQ10 must be avoided during pregnancy, since studies are lacking regarding its effectivity and safety among pregnant and breastfeeding women. Diabetics must also talk to their physician prior to intake of CoQ10, to lower the risk of reduced blood sugar levels. Furthermore, CoQ10 is also known to interact with the following medications:
• Chemotherapy medications — Before taking antioxidants or other supplements alongside chemotherapy, consult your oncologist first. There is a possibility that CoQ10's antioxidant effect can make some chemotherapy drugs less effective, although researchers are still unsure of this link.
• Daunorubicin (Cerubidin) and doxorubicin (Adriamycin) — These are two chemotherapy medications that are utilized to treat several kinds of cancer. If taken alongside CoQ10, the toxic effects produced by these medicines on the heart may be reduced. Just like with the previous example, talk to your oncologist before taking antioxidants or supplements alongside chemotherapy.
• Blood pressure medications — Initial studies have discovered that CoQ10 can work together with certain blood pressure medicines to lower blood pressure levels, although more research is needed to confirm this. If you're already taking medicines for high blood pressure levels, consult your physician first before taking CoQ10 and do not stop regular medicine intake.
• Blood-thinning medications like warfarin (Coumadin) or clopidigrel (Plavix) — There have been reports showing CoQ10 can make these medicines less effective at thinning the blood. Ask your physician first on the proper course of action if you plan on taking CoQ10.
• Betaxolol (Betoptic) — CoQ10 can reduce the heart-related side effects of betaxolol drops, a beta-blocker medicine often used to treat glaucoma, although without making the latter any less effective.
Meanwhile, certain medicines can lower your body's CoQ10 levels, so exercise caution when taking them:
• Statins for cholesterol like atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol) and simvastatin Zocor)
• Fibric acid derivatives for cholesterol like gemfibrozil (Lopid)
• Beta-blockers for high blood pressure like atenolol (Tenormin), labetolol (Normodyne), metoprolol (Lopressor or Toprol) and propranolol (Inderal)
• Tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline (Elavil), doxepin (Sinequan) and imipramine (Tofranil)
Overall, increasing your CoQ10 intake can be a good decision, especially if you're keen on improving your overall health and enhancing your body's synergistic processes. Furthermore, most of the research surrounding this vital antioxidant is positive, providing substantial evidence that strengthens its claim.
Despite its numerous uses and benefits, however, remember that CoQ10 is not a wonder cure that'll magically heal ailments. It's meant to complement a healthy lifestyle that focuses on eating nutritious food and exercising on a frequent basis.
Frequently Asked Questions About CoQ10
Q: What is CoQ10 made from?
A: CoQ10 is a substance similar to a vitamin that's naturally produced by the body,34 and is found in the mitochondria's inner cell membranes.
Q: What does ubiquinol do for your body?
A: Ubiquinol, the reduced form of CoQ10, offers the same health benefits as CoQ10, which include:
✓ Supporting optimal heart and cardiovascular health and function
✓ Helping boost energy and stamina levels over the long term
✓ Assisting with optimal energy production in the mitochondria
✓ Helping your body feel younger
✓ Reducing normal signs of aging by helping prevent damage triggered by free radicals and oxidative stress
✓ Regulating healthy blood pressure levels that are already in the normal range
✓ Providing support for your immune and nervous systems
✓ Supporting brain, heart, liver and kidney health by allowing tissue cells to generate energy and protect against damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress
✓ Supporting healthy levels of CoQ10 and ubiquinol in the body if you're taking statins or other drugs
Q: Is CoQ10 safe?
A: A 2008 safety assessment on CoQ10 published in the journal Biofactors revealed that CoQ10 is safe for use as a dietary supplement. This conclusion was based on data from both preclinical and clinical studies.35 However, COQ10 supplements can cause an occasional stomach upset or interact with other medicines,36 so I highly recommend consulting your physician first and learning what the ideal dose for your condition is.
Q: Is CoQ10 good for lowering cholesterol?
A: Not much evidence has proven if CoQ10 supplements are ideal for lowering the body's cholesterol levels. However, CoQ10 has already been proposed as a treatment for people with high cholesterol levels because they tend to have low CoQ10 levels. The only link between CoQ10 supplements and a person's cholesterol levels that has been established so far is its potential in decreasing side effects caused by statins that often lower a person's cholesterol levels.
Q: Should I take CoQ10?
A: Most people may benefit from COQ10, but there are some factors you need to consider first, such as your age, existing conditions or health problems that you might be experiencing and amount of CoQ10 you have in your body.
If you're not sure if you need to increase your body's CoQ10 levels or not, talk to your doctor about CoQ10 supplements and see if you can undergo a blood test to check your body's levels.39 Usually, people younger than 25 years old or older than 40 years old can take CoQ10 supplements. People under 18 years old, unless advised by a physician, aren't recommended to take CoQ10 supplements.37