CoEnzyme Q10
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | September 18, 2001

In order for your body to operate at optimal levels, it needs to have enough energy. As a society, we seem to get plenty of energy from the foods we eat. The evidence for that is that 60% of all Americans are overweight. The problem is on the energy-production side--specifically, energy production in your cells. One of the potential causes for this lack of energy may be attributed to the lack of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) in your cells.

CoQ10 is also referred to as ubiquinone. This simply means it's everywhere and it's found in every cell in the body. The highest concentrations are in the heart, liver, and kidney as well as skeletal muscles. CoQ10 has several roles in the body. First, it is used in your cells' mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) to make energy through an aerobic process. What's interesting is that this electron-transport energy system deep within your cells can make more energy (in the form of ATP) than any other energy-producing system in your body. Second, in its reduced form, CoQ10 acts as an antioxidant. Research shows that it can prevent the oxidation of lipids. CoQ10 also appears to have membrane-stabilizing properties. This is an important role, because the effectiveness of many hormones and other enzymes depend on how well cell membranes operate.

Our bodies make CoQ10 and normally manufacture all that we need. But we no longer eat as much as we used to of foods that provide CoQ10, such as red meat, poultry, and broccoli. Also, as we age, we either use more in fighting disease or make less in our body, thus creating a deficiency.

Fortunately, CoQ10 is available in food supplements. The typical recommended amount ranges from 30-100 mg per day, is safe, and seems to cause no digestive or metabolic problems in healthy persons. CoQ10 is available as a dry powder and in an oil-based form. Research shows that the oil-based form of CoQ10 is better absorbed. However, oil-based supplements are more susceptible to oxidation by light and heat, potentially reducing their effectiveness. Simply taking the dry form with food containing fat or with flaxseed or fish-oil supplements will increase the absorption.

There may be therapeutic reasons for taking CoQ10 as well. In a recent review article, Mongthoung, et al., examined what role CoQ10 could have in treating heart failure, angina, and hypertension (1). After examining all of the relevant research, they concluded that CoQ10 should not be a primary treatment for these diseases but would be a beneficial complement to primary therapy. If you suffer from these diseases, you must discuss CoQ10 supplementation with your physician before taking the supplement. Remember, your physician is your partner in your healthcare and should be kept in the loop.

There are few known interactions with medications. Because CoQ10 is similar in structure to vitamin K and can act as a blood coagulant, anyone taking blood thinners such as Coumadin should not use CoQ10 without checking with his or her physician. CoQ10 can also improve the function of insulin receptors. Diabetics should monitor their blood glucose carefully if considering using CoQ10.

If you want to increase your energy levels, start by exercising regularly and eating a healthier diet, including more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, good oils, and high-quality protein. Take a good multivitamin-multimineral and give some consideration to supplementing with CoQ10. The powerhouse within your cells may just find it valuable in supplying the energy you need for optimal health.

References:

  1. Mongthuong, T. T., et al. Role of Coenzyme Q10 in Chronic Heart Failure, Angina, and Hypertension. Pharmacotherapy 21(7):797-806. 2001.
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