Your body is exposed to harmful elements, called free radicals, every day. From environmental pollution to UV light, poor dietary choices to exercise habits, there are many things you can and can’t control that can affect your health, and you need antioxidants to fight them.
Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is a potent antioxidant that counteracts free radicals and prevents them from harming cells throughout your body. Overall, CoQ10 helps your cells function while protecting them from free radical-associated oxidative stress.
While the body naturally produces CoQ10, production slows down as you age. Some people turn to dietary sources to increase their CoQ10 levels, but it’s often easier and more effective to supplement. Read on to learn what you need to know about CoQ10 and discover whether supplementing could offer benefits for your health.
A Closer Look at Ubiquinol (CoQ10) and Cellular Energy
Ubiquinol, or coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), is a vitamin-like substance, and it’s ubiquitous in every cell of the body. CoQ10 is tiny but mighty, serving as an essential component in ATP production in the mitochondria of cells.
CoQ10 does a lot—it helps control a cell’s protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, turning it into energy that cells can use. This energy is covered in ATP (adenosine-triphosphate), which then breaks down to send energy that helps muscles move.
CoQ10 is absorbed from diet and supplements from the small intestines into the lymphatic system. It’s bound to chylomicrons, lipoproteins that form in the intestinal cells after you eat a meal containing fats. From there it’s sent to the bloodstream, where every cell in the body can benefit.
There are two general form of CoQ10: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. There’s a difference in how the body absorbs the two forms. Typically, ubiquinone can be efficiently reduced to ubiquinol during absorption or shortly after entering the bloodstream. As people age, though, the ability to convert ubiquinone to ubiquinol is more challenging and can be compromised in some individuals. For this reason, it’s often more effective to supplement with ubiquinol, as it can be directly utilized by the body.
The Health Benefits of Ubiquinol
Ubiquinol offers significant health benefits for every cell in the body, acting as a powerful antioxidant. By preventing oxidative stress from harming the body’s cells and causing premature cell damage, antioxidants like ubiquinol can be directly utilized by the body. Some of the primary benefits of maintaining appropriate ubiquinol levels include:
- Support heart health. Coronary artery disease and high blood pressure contribute to oxidative damage and inflammation of the veins. When these problems combine, they can affect the heart to a level where it’s unable to contract, relax or pump blood through the body: a condition better-known as heart failure. Studies have shown that Ubiquinol can help patients suffering from heart failure by improving heart function; limiting oxidative damage to the veins and arteries and increasing ATP production.
- Fertility booster. Ubiquinol is thought to help women suffering from decreased fertility as they age. When women get older, the number and quality of available eggs declines steadily. CoQ10 is directly involved in this process, since it protects eggs from oxidative damage. For males, sperm is also susceptible to oxidative damage due to the aging process, which can result in reduced sperm count and poor sperm quality. Supplementing with CoQ10 may reverse age-related declines in both egg and sperm quality and quantity.
- Improved skin. Your skin is exposed to harmful free radicals on a daily basis, from the food you eat, environmental pollution, UV damage and other factors. Altogether, these harmful elements can deplete your skin of moisture and natural oils, and it can also cause thinning of the skin. Topical CoQ10 can reduce skin damage from both internal and external factors, reducing oxidative damage and helping your skin maintain a youthful glow.
- Insulin resistance. People with diabetes can benefit from maintaining appropriate CoQ10 levels, since it’s been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels and stimulate the breakdown of fats. As CoQ10 reduces the accumulation of fat cells, it can prevent obesity or type 2 diabetes.
- Cancer prevention. Research shows that oxidative stress is linked to cell damage and the development of some cancers. As your body fights oxidative damage, it can damage your cellular structure, potentially increasing your risk of developing cancer. Studies have shown that low levels of CoQ10 are associated with significantly higher risk of cancer as well as poor prognosis for various cancers.
- Cognitive performance. As you age, mitochondria—the main energy producers of brain cells—decrease in function. If you reach the point of total mitochondrial dysfunction, your brain cells can actually die, contributing to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Oxidative damage can be particularly harmful to the brain since it has a high fatty acid content and high demand for oxygen. CoQ10 can slow the production of harmful compounds that affect memory, cognition and physical functions, and can even slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
There’s no shortage of research that reveals CoQ10’s impressive range of significant health benefits. It’s why so many people choose to supplement with the compound, especially as they age. While the body produces CoQ10 naturally, production tends to slow down with age, making supplementing an ideal solution.
Defense Against Oxidative Stress
Ubiquinol helps the body ward off oxidative stress, a process that leads to premature cell damage and death. What is oxidative stress exactly? It’s a harmful bodily process caused by an overabundance of reactive oxygen species, a form of free radicals. You’re exposed to free radicals in your everyday life. Exercise, environmental pollution, UV light, your diet and many other factors all play a part in your overall free radical exposure.
As free radicals move throughout the body, they scavenge electrons from healthy cells which directly leads to cellular damage. If the body doesn’t have adequate antioxidant defenses, free radical damage continues to spread unchecked, causing oxidative stress. While research is ongoing, oxidative stress is linked to several serious medical conditions, including the development of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. It’s even believed to affect the health of your skin, causing some of the common signs of premature aging like fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots and other blemishes.
Increasing your body’s antioxidant levels is your best defense against oxidative stress. Eating a balanced diet typically provides the body with enough essential antioxidants, including vitamins C and E. As previously mentioned, ubiquinol is another powerful antioxidant that fights oxidative stress. Many people, as they age, focus on increasing their intake of CoQ10, particularly ubiquinol, but it’s difficult to get enough of the compound from dietary sources alone. In many cases, supplementing is safe, convenient and effective.
Possible Interactions and Side Effects
CoQ10 is generally regarded as a very safe supplement. Whether you’re interested in taking a dietary supplement to prevent migraines or treat conditions like heart failure, make sure to take this and all supplements under a doctor’s supervision.
There are very few possible drug interactions to be aware of if you take a CoQ10 supplement. CoQ10 only reacts poorly with anticoagulants. It can make these blood-thinking drugs, like warfarin, less effective, increasing the risk of blood clots.
CoQ10, and more specifically ubiquinol, is generally well-tolerated by most people. Although it’s one of the most commonly-used supplements, there are some side effects to be aware of, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rash headaches, fatigue and low blood pressure.
Of all the side effects to look out for, low blood pressure is the most serious. If you experience very low blood pressure and symptoms like weakness, dizziness or feeling like you could pass out, stop taking ubiquinol and speak to a healthcare provide immediately.
How Much Ubiquinol Should You Take?
While it’s often easier to supplement with CoQ10, the compound can be found in some dietary sources. Many of these contain high amounts of fat, since CoQ10 is a fat-soluble vitamin, which can be problematic for people following a low-fat diet. The following foods contain moderate levels of CoQ10:
- Organ meats. Heart, liver, kidney
- Muscle meats. Pork, beef, chicken
- Fatty fish. Herring, trout, mackerel, sardine
- Vegetables. Spinach, cauliflower, broccoli
- Nuts and seeds. Sesame seeds and pistachios
- Oils. Soybean oil, canola oil
Many adults, particularly older adults, take a ubiquinol supplement on a daily basis to take advantage of its antioxidant properties. Since CoQ10 is similarly absorbed as a supplement or from foods, it’s often easier to supplement. How much should you take? The exact recommended dose you’ll take depends on three key factors:
- Your age
- Your overall health
- The condition you’re targeting with CoQ10
Generally, standard daily doses of CoQ10 for healthy adults fall in the range of 60-500 mg per day, with the highest recommended dose at 1,200 mg.
CoQ10 is a fat-soluble nutrient, which means you should take the supplement with a meal containing fat to promote optimal absorption. Some studies have shown that taking CoQ10 at night can enhance the body’s ability to use the compound, but it can also cause insomnia. Most people take this supplement in the morning or afternoon, but those who experience no sleep disturbances can choose to take it at night.
How to Choose Quality Ubiquinol Supplements
CoQ10 is a popular supplement, and there are plenty of products on the market of varying quality. If your doctor has determined supplementing is right for you, do your research and choose a high-quality supplement that gives your body the most antioxidant-boosting benefits. During your search, some things to look out for include:
- Allergen-free: Low-quality CoQ10 brands sometimes contain byproducts in them, particularly soybeans, which can cause allergic reactions. Carefully check the ingredient list on every supplement you’re considering and look for an allergen-free designation. Other common allergens to look out for include: milk/casein, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, gluten and corn.
- All-natural: Look for supplements that contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
- Testing: Make sure the supplements you take are third-party tested to ensure safety and potency.
You have a choice regarding what you put in your body. If you’re supplementing with CoQ10, or any supplement, take time to find an all-natural supplement to make sure you’re getting the most effective, safe product for your money.
The Bottom Line on CoQ10 Supplementation
While CoQ10 is naturally produced by the body, production slows as you age. Older adults in particular can benefit from taking a supplement, especially if they can’t consume enough of the nutrient from dietary sources alone.
If you’re interested in raising your CoQ10 levels by supplementing, always speak to your healthcare provider first. Your doctor can determine whether supplementing is right for you, as well as the dosage you need to address specific health concerns. Reach out to your doctor today to see whether raising your antioxidant defenses with CoQ10 can benefit your overall health. Then, choose a CoQ10 supplement designed to deliver maximum benefits.