Is Coenzyme Q10 Worth Worrying About?
The first thing to know about CoQ10 is that it is found in every cell of the human body. It is thus so "ubiquitous" in our cells that its two forms have been named "ubiquinol," which is the version our bodies actively use, and "ubiquinone," which can be processed by the body to produce ubiquinol.
CoQ10 helps our cells make ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), which provides the energy for basically all of those cells' functions. Thus, the organs that contain the most CoQ10 are those that need the most energy: for example, the heart, kidneys, lungs, and liver.Though CoQ10 is vitamin-like, it is not technically a vitamin. This is because our body can produce its own CoQ10 rather than being dependent on food to get it. Most healthy young people seem to have no trouble with this CoQ10-making process, but our body appears to become less able to synthesize the chemical as we age.
Clinical deficiencies of CoQ10 are usually associated with mitochondrial disorders, deficiencies of other nutrients, or the use of certain medications. Yet levels of CoQ10 that are merely lower than average are also found in people suffering from certain health conditions, like neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes, cancer, fibromyalgia, and muscular and cardiovascular diseases.
This may well be because these illnesses deplete levels of this little-known nutrient as the body uses copious energy to fight them. However, others hypothesize that low CoQ10 levels may itself be a risk factor for disease, which suggests that increasing those levels may help improve symptoms.
Since CoQ10 plays a role in so many different bodily processes, it makes sense that the potential benefits of increased CoQ10 intake would be diffuse and widespread.For instance, CoQ10 is necessary for the production of literal energy, so it follows that low CoQ10 levels would be linked to fatigue and that CoQ10 is sometimes marketed as an energy supplement. However, CoQ10 will probably only improve your energy level if your levels of it are actually low, as in the aforementioned examples of chronic disease.Studies have also shown that supplemental CoQ10 reduced fatigue symptoms related to fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis. CoQ10 has also displayed some promise for treating fatigue associated with the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins and related symptoms like muscle pain, cramps, and weakness. Since statin-related muscle damage can be especially debilitating if it affects the heart muscle, the potential of CoQ10 to ameliorate this damage is an especially promising area of research.CoQ10 may also help out your heart by improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels and preventing potential complications of cardiac surgery. It has additionally been shown to reduce the symptoms of chronic heart failure and to lower the risk of major cardiac adverse events. This may be due the fact that CoQ10 can also reduce blood viscosity, which makes blood less thick and sticky and thus much easier to pump.Coq10 may also be beneficial for diabetics, who tend to have low concentrations of it and to be at a particularly high risk of oxidative damage. Rat studies show that CoQ10 may improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels in diabetics, while research done on mice suggests it may also improve their fat metabolism and help them fight obesity. After all, the more efficient your body is working, the more fat it can burn!CoQ10 has also been found to help mitigate the effect of a high-fat diet in causing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and reverse the liver damage caused by alcoholism. Other research suggests that CoQ10 may also the progression of Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's disease, both of which may be caused in part by mitochondrial dysfunction. Oh, and while we've got it in our head, there's a chance that CoQ10 might treat or prevent migraines.CoQ10 has also been hypothesized to have positive effects on sperm quality, activity, and concentration in males and egg quantity and quality in aging females.CoQ10 may also decrease cancer risk and reduce the chances of cancer recurrence. Meanwhile, low levels of CoQ10 have been associated with a higher risk of skin cancer, but when it is used topically, CoQ10 may help protect your skin from UV damage and even wrinkles!Finally, CoQ10 has been associated with reduced inflammation and need for medication in asthma patients and better oxygenation and exercise performance in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.Speaking of exercise, one last group that has found itself interested in the potential benefits of CoQ10 is athletes, so much so that it's become a trendy ingredient in energy drinks.Unusually intense exercise or having a large muscle mass to support can indeed exhaust the body's resources of CoQ10. Thus, consuming CoQ10 during a demanding exercise task led athletes both to feel less fatigued and to perform empirically better. CoQ10 may also reduce the oxidative stress that might normally occur during exercise.
Another CoQ10 pro is that it has relatively few risks, with reported side effects being rare even at high doses and usually limited to minor issues like nausea or insomnia. However, CoQ10 may reduce the effect of some medications, like blood thinners, thyroid medications, or certain kinds of chemotherapy.
On the other hand, CoQ10 may increase the effect of diabetes and blood pressure medications, which could be dangerous if this causes blood sugar or blood pressure to plummet too low. There are also some potential CoQ10-and-medication side effects we may be unaware of because the combination simply hasn't been studied yet.
CoQ10's effects on children or pregnant women also haven't been extensively studied, so it's probably best for those groups to stay away from supplemental CoQ10 unless it is specifically prescribed to them by a doctor.
If you're still worried about your CoQ10 levels but not so worried as to go out looking for a supplement or take a blood test, you could always try simply eating more CoQ10-rich foods.
Since animal CoQ10 seems to be distributed much the way ours is, it is most abundant in heart, liver, and kidney meats, though it can also be found in the more commonly eaten muscle meat of beef, chicken, and pork. Other sources of CoQ10 include fatty fish, soybean oil, olive oil, peanuts, corn oil, whole grains, spinach, broccoli, and oranges.Yet CoQ10 is much less abundant in plant foods than in meat foods, which is something vegetarians may wish to be aware of. CoQ10 is also easily destroyed by heat and cooking, which is somewhat unfortunate— you certainly wouldn't catch most of us biting into a raw heart!
However, it would admittedly be quite difficult to get the mega-doses of CoQ10 found in supplements from food alone. For example, you would have to eat 51 pounds of salmon each day to obtain even a relatively low 100 mg dose!If you do decide to look into supplemental CoQ10, you should also be aware that it's fat-soluble, so taking it with a fatty food will give your body the greatest chance of absorption. Yet, in contrast to fat-soluble vitamins, CoQ10 is quite hard for the body to store, so it should probably be taken consistently.
Some effects of CoQ10, such as those on exercise-related fatigue, may be evident immediately after taking you take it. Others, such as those on blood pressure, may not emerge until after as many as 8 weeks.Of course, just to reiterate: most of the links between CoQ10 and improved health are tentative and most relatively healthy people are unlikely to need it. Other evidence suggests that CoQ10 may actually do nothing at all, at least when taken as an antioxidant!