Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) must be one of my favourite nutrient supplements because it is essential for so many mechanisms of action in the body. It is mostly known for its role in energy production and I believe good energy levels are the foundation of good physical health and good mental health. It is generally referred to as ‘ubiquinone’ due to its ubiquitous nature throughout the body, and has been used as a therapeutic supplement for more than 30 years. Whilst small amounts of CoQ10 are available through the diet, the majority is synthesised by the body. Generally tissues with high energy requirements or metabolic activity such as the heart, liver, kidneys, immune system, gingiva and muscles contain high concentrations of CoQ10 and are more susceptible to deficiency.
The Ubiquinone/Ubiquinol Debate
Both Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol are present in all cellular membranes in varying ratios. Ubiquinol is the most active form of CoQ10 however different tissues require differing amounts of both ubiquinol and ubiquinone to function optimally. The body converts ubiquinone to ubiquinol (and vice versa) according to need however there are situations in which the body cannot produce sufficient quantities, such as in the cases of: a) nutrient deficiencies b) genetic or acquired defects in synthesis or utilisation c) disease states that increase tissue requirements d) side-effects of certain medications (eg. statin drugs) e) natural ageing – the body’s ability to synthesize CoQ10 declines progressively from the age of 20.
Key Benefits of CoQ10
1. Energy production
Undoubtedly CoQ10’s most known role is its central part in energy production. Whilst ubiquinol plays an important part in producing energy, the body’s mechanism for energy production relies on the presence of CoQ10 in the form of ubiquinone. Researchers have shown that supplementing with 300mg of CoQ10/day for eight days may improve fatigue levels and physical performance. Studies also show better exercise performance and recovery times for people who supplemented with just 90mg CoQ10/day for 6 weeks.
2. Cardiovascular Health
A deficiency in CoQ10 in heart disease was documented in the early 1970s. Since then a large number of studies have shown significant reductions of CoQ10 in coronary artery disease risk.
a)High Cholesterol Reading Oxidation of LDL’s (usually considered the “bad” cholesterol) is believed to be an initiating factor in the development of atherosclerosis which is where plaque (cholesterol) attaches to the blood vessel lining. This is considered a major contributing factor of cardiovascular disease. CoQ10 supplementation is proven to significantly inhibit the formation of these plaque lesions. It has also been shown that taking statin medications reduces CoQ10 levels in the body therefore supplementing with 200mg of CoQ10 daily should be considered.
b)High Blood Pressure Studies show that CoQ10 is helpful in reducing hypertension by also restoring blood vessel lining (endothelial) function. The ‘endothelium’ or lining of our blood vessels produces nitric oxide and nitric oxide’s main role is to dilate our blood vessels thus improving blood flow throughout the body. Just 225mg of CoQ10 daily have shown to result in significant reductions in blood pressure so it is an important element of our treatment protocol for hypertension.
Dysfunction in mitochondrial energy metabolism is thought to play a role in at least a subset of migraine sufferers. Research indicates that supplemental CoQ10 (150mg-300mg/day) may reduce the attack frequency, number of days with migraine headache and nausea. The effect of supplementation on migraine symptoms may begin within four weeks but it usually takes twelve weeks to achieve a greater that 50% reduction in days with migraine.
4. Periodontal Disease
Deficiency of CoQ10 has been found to be responsible for periodontal destruction. Gingival biopsies have revealed subnormal tissue levels of CoQ10 in patients with periodontal disease. Supplemental CoQ10 in chewable form is an ideal way to support periodontal health.
5. Sperm Health
Low seminal plasma concentrations of CoQ10 have been correlated with impaired sperm parameters (i.e. sperm count/density, motility, morphology). It has been shown that CoQ10 supplementation results in an improvement in these parameters. A twelve month study on 287 infertile men supplemented with 300mg CoQ10 twice daily not only improved sperm count, motility and morphology but 34.1% achieved pregnancy within a mean period of 8.4 months.
(references can be provided upon request)
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