Supplements 101: What is Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)?
- Feb 18, 2023
- Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Coenzyme Q10: Cellular Spark Plug!
For all you car lovers out there, here’s a car analogy for how CoQ10 works in your body:
Coenzyme Q10 acts a lot like the spark plugs in your car engine. Spark plugs convert gasoline to energy inside the pistons of the engine. The energy drives the pistons, which drive the car.
Coenzyme Q10 in your cells works the same way. If one of your spark plugs isn’t working right, your car engine stops running well. If all the spark plugs aren’t working, your car sputters to a stop, even if the gas tank is full. Something very similar happens in your body if you run low on CoQ10—you can’t produce enough energy to keep your body running.
To say the least, CoQ10 is produced by the human body, helps provide energy to cells, and is necessary for the basic functions of cells.
What is the Q and the 10 in Coenzyme Q10?
The Q and the 10 refer to the groups of chemicals that make up the coenzyme. It is found throughout the body, but is present in higher concentrations in organs with higher energy requirements, such as the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas.
What is better? Ubiquinone or Ubiquinol
Coenzyme Q10 exists as two forms: Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol.
Ubiquinone is the oxidized form of CoQ10 and is the more common form of commercially available CoQ10. If you've ever bought one of the cheaper CoQ10 supplements, it has most likely been in the oxidized form. If the label doesn't specifically mention which form of CoQ10 the product contains, it's probably ubiquinone.
Ubiquinol is the fully reduced and antioxidant form of CoQ10. This is the form used to provide energy to our cells, and the form I recommend you look for when purchasing in supplement form.
Studies now show the body’s ability to reduce the ubiquinone form of CoQ10 to the powerful antioxidant ubiquinol declines with age and is markedly compromised in certain chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus.
Safety Concerns for CoQ10
Coenzyme Q10 is likely safe for most adults when taken by mouth.
Check with your health care provider to find out if coenzyme Q10 can be safely used along with other drugs. Certain drugs, such as those used to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood sugar levels, may decrease the effects of coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 may change the way the body uses warfarin (a drug that prevents the blood from clotting) and insulin.
CoQ10 and Cardiovascular Health
Co-Q10 supports healthy cardiovascular function by maintaining cellular energy production, especially in the heart muscle. It helps maintain normal LDL cholesterol levels and promotes circulatory health. Co-Q10 also supports the health of blood vessel walls.
CoQ10 is an Antioxidant
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that is a vital participant in the chain of metabolic chemical reactions that generate energy within cells. It is found in every cell of the body, but is present in higher concentrations in organs with higher energy requirements such as the kidneys, liver, and heart.
CoQ10 and Energy Production
CoQ10 plays an important role in oxygen utilization and energy production. It helps provide energy to cells, and is necessary for the basic functions of cells, especially the heart muscle cells.
CoQ10 and Aging
The complex process of aging appears to involve a variety of factors and processes. One of the most broadly recognized perspectives is The Mitochondrial Theory of Aging.
The Mitochondrial Theory of Aging suggests that damage to mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA contributes to the aging process in humans. Your mitochondria are tiny compartments found within your cells, known as the "powerhouse" and are responsible for generating energy.
Unfortunately, mitochondrial damage is inevitable...
Oxidative damage is perhaps the biggest contributor and a result of an imbalance between free radicals and your body's ability to neutralize their damaging effects through antioxidant support.
And one of your body's strongest defenses against this damage is Coenzyme Q10.
There are numerous promising uses for coenzyme Q10 and as always, please consult with your health care provider before trying a new supplement.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
1. Pressman AH. (1997). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vitamins and Minerals: Coenzyme Q10. New York, NY: Macmillan, Inc.
2. Medline Plus. Coenzyme Q10