What Is Coenzyme Q10? (CoQ10)

by Jason Boehm, MS, CNS, MMC

A Look At A Critically Important Energy Nutrient

A Quick Look At Why CoQ10 Is So Important

Coenzyme Q10 is a critically important nutrient that plays an essential role in your energy and health. A simple way to explain why this is true, is to know that enzymes are the things that make your body work. They help convert food into absorbable nutrients, and they help start the energy creation process in the cells.

A “coenzyme” is something that helps to make all these enzymes work, a trigger if you will. Coenzyme Q10 is now regarded as the most important of these coenzymes. This has become an important issue because many people in poor health or lacking in energy are found to have low levels of CoQ10.

This is the case because production of CoQ10 by the body requires the presence of lots of specific vitamins and minerals. If any of these are missing, production of this nutrient by your body can suffer. Since most people eat a micronutrient poor diet, the odds of this being true are high. Additionally, production slows down with age naturally.

CoQ10 can also be very hard to get directly from food. As a result, CoQ10 has become a widely recommended supplement, especially for people who are taking medications. Certain medications like statins, have been shown in clinical studies to reduce levels of CoQ10 in people. Certain health and medical experts strongly recommend CoQ10 supplementation for anyone taking statins.

It is important to note that CoQ10 is a relatively expensive supplement, and the quality varies tremendously.

At the end of this article we will take a look at how to get the most “bang for the buck” for your supplement dollar. Certain supplements may cost 2 to 3 times the cheaper version, but have dramatically higher absorption rates. Which means that a cheaper version of CoQ10, might not actually be cheaper.

A Deeper Look At The Science Of CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a fat-soluble compound primarily found in your mitochondria, or the energy-producing organelles within your cells. CoQ10 is alternately called ubiquinone because of its ubiquitous presence and its quinone biochemical structure.

Your body makes a small amount of CoQ10, and a very few foods – organ meat particularly – also contribute CoQ10. (In fact, Dr. Frederick Crane first isolated CoQ10 from beef heart in 1957.)

Here’s the thing. To get 30 mg of CoQ10, you would have to eat a pound of sardines or two pounds of beef. Unless you have a carnivorous appetite, then, a supplement makes a better choice to get therapeutic amounts of CoQ10.

How CoQ10 Works To Boost Energy

CoQ10 works foremost in every cell of your body to synthesize energy. In your cells’ mitochondria, CoQ10 helps generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), your body’s energy currency. It makes sense that organs with the highest energy needs – including the heart, liver, and kidneys – contain large amounts of CoQ10.

Think of CoQ10 as an award-winning actor who can contribute dual performances in a show with equal aplomb. CoQ10 generates energy in its oxidized form, called ubiquinone. But it can quickly change costumes to ubiquinol, its reduced form, and act as a powerful antioxidant.

Among its roles, ubiquinol protects fats, protein, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, a cholesterol transporter), and DNA from oxidative damage. It also regenerates vitamin E, another powerful antioxidant.

In fact, a recent study concluded that “Oral administration of coenzyme Q10 improved subjective fatigue sensation and physical performance during fatigue-inducing workload trials.”

How CoQ10 Deficiencies Develop

CoQ10 synthesis requires a 17-step process with at least nine vitamins as well as trace elements and the amino acid tyrosine. If you’re deficient in any of those nutrients, your body might not make optimal CoQ10 levels.

Prescription drugs can also deplete CoQ10. Your body synthesizes CoQ10 in the same pathway as cholesterol, for instance, via the enzyme 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-CoA reductase (HMG CoA reductase).

If you use statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs), which interfere with that enzyme, you also inhibit your body’s CoQ10 production. A study in The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology showed statins decrease serum CoQ10 levels up to 40%.

Other drugs that can deplete CoQ10 include beta-blockers, antidepressants, diuretics, anti-diabetic medications, and psychotherapeutic medications.

How Genetics Play A Role In CoQ10 Deficiencies

Genetics and increased requirements can also create CoQ10 deficiencies. Your body uses at least 12 genes to synthesize CoQ10. Just like one faulty AA battery will keep your TV remote from working, mutations in any of these genes can stall your body from making CoQ10.

Your most metabolically active cells – including heart, brain, and immune cells – also demand more CoQ10, so it makes sense that deficiencies are most prevalent in these cells.

CoQ10 deficiencies also occur in a wide range of conditions, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and HIV/ AIDS. Let’s take a look at how CoQ10 can benefit a few of these and other conditions.

How CoQ10 Relates To Physical Performance

Exercise increases oxidative stress, so it makes sense that CoQ10 could potentially provide powerful antioxidant protection.

A study in Exercise Immunology Review, for instance, looked at exercise-induced injury and oxidative stress in rats’ skeletal muscle and liver. Researchers found supplementing CoQ10 helped increase total CoQ10 concentration in slow-twitch muscles and stabilize muscle cell membranes to reduce exhaustive exercise-induced muscular injury.

Since CoQ10 also contributes to energy production, supplementation might also reduce fatigue and other exercise-related conditions. A study in Nutrition, for instance, showed CoQ10 improved subjective fatigue and physical performance during fatigue-inducing workload trials. To get those benefits, people took 300 mg of CoQ10 daily.

CoQ10 And Cardiac Disease

The bulk of clinical studies about CoQ10 have focused on heart disease. That makes sense, because significantly low CoQ10 levels have been strongly correlated with congestive heart failure. CoQ10 plays a significant role in, for instance, heart-muscle contraction. Deficient CoQ10 levels, then, could potentially exacerbate heart disease.

CoQ10 also works as a powerful antioxidant to combat lipid peroxidation, which damages LDL and contributes to atherosclerosis development. A study in Molecular Aspects of Medicine, for instance, concluded 100 mg of CoQ10 significantly increased (more than doubled, in fact) LDL-ubiquinol concentration, thus potentially inhibiting LDL oxidation.

Aging and Immunity

After around age 35, your body’s ability to synthesize CoQ10 decreases, due to increased demands for antioxidant protection and energy production.

As you get older, your immune function also declines. Could there be a link between decreased CoQ10 production and immune function? CoQ10 can boost your immune system via, for instance, increased production of white blood cells. CoQ10 also enhances phagocytic activity of macrophages.

Can CoQ10 Improve Blood Pressure and Reduce Hypertension?

With patience, CoQ10 can improve your blood pressure. A study in Molecular Aspects of Medicine, for instance, showed that 26 people with essential hypertension who took 50 mg of CoQ10 twice daily for 10 weeks significantly decreased peripheral resistance and blood pressure.

CoQ10 might also allow your doctor to eliminate blood pressure-lowering drugs.

How Long Will It Take To See Results From CoQ10 Supplementation?

A study in Molecular Aspects of Medicine showed that over half of patients were able to completely eliminate one to three antihypertensive drugs an average of four months after starting CoQ10.

As a general rule, don’t expect immediate results. According to Drs. Alan Gaby and Laurie Mischley, you probably won’t see improvements until four to 12 weeks of consistent use. That’s because CoQ10 helps correct a metabolic abnormality via increasing enzyme activity. It does this over time.

Can CoQ10 Help People With Diabetes?

CoQ10 can benefit people with type 2 diabetes in several ways. A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for instance, showed using 100 mg twice daily helped improve blood pressure and long-term glycemic control.

Antioxidants can step in to ameliorate the free-radical damage frequently connected to poor glycemic control. A study in the journal Blood Coagulation & Fibrinolysis showed people with type 2 diabetes had significantly higher levels of oxidative stress than control subjects did.

Finally, some type 2 diabetics demonstrate mitochondrial dysfunction. Think of malfunctioning mitochondria as a leaky gas tank: you won’t get the most efficient miles per gallon until you fix the leak. CoQ10 can help repair your mitochondria: a study in the Alternative Medicine Review showed it and other therapeutic nutrients could ameliorate mitochondrial function.

Can CoQ10 Help With Gum Disease?

You brush, floss, and practice good oral hygiene. Studies, unfortunately, give a grim picture: periodontal disease still affects 60% of young adults and 90% of people over 65. Intractable gingivitis can lead to surgery and eventually losing your teeth.

Your body requires energy to heal and repair periodontal tissue, which demands adequate levels of CoQ10. A study that examined gingival biopsies concluded that up to 96% of patients with periodontal disease had low levels of CoQ10.

But there’s hope. A study of 18 patients with periodontal disease in Research Communications in Chemical Pathology and Pharmacology received either 50 mg of CoQ10 or a placebo. All eight CoQ10 patients showed improvements, while only three of the 10 non-CoQ10 patients did.

How Safe Is CoQ10 To Use?

One study in the journal Movement Disorders found people could safely tolerate up to 3,600 mg of CoQ10 daily with no toxicity and gastrointestinal distress as the only adverse reaction. Chances are you couldn’t afford that much CoQ10 (it’s expensive), much less want to take that much.

How Much CoQ10 Should You Take A Day?

How much CoQ10 should you take? Depends on what you use it for. According to Drs. Gaby and Mischley, a good maintenance dose for a healthy person would be 60 mg a day. Other doses range from 30 mg (for mild congestive heart failure) to 1,200 mg (progression of Parkinson disease). To put this in perspective, consuming 2 pounds of beef would provide 30 mg of CoQ10.

Keep in mind, too, that a high-absorbability CoQ10 will allow you more efficacious results with smaller amounts. In general, CoQ10 absorbs poorly. That’s because its crystalline structure doesn’t fully dissolve in your GI tract. On the other hand, studies show that a stable, fully dissolved, crystal-free CoQ10 in an advanced delivery system can absorb up to eight times better than dry powder.

Also worth noting: you should always take CoQ10 with a meal containing adequate fat, which stimulates bile to greatly enhance CoQ10 absorption.

Editorial Note: What Brand Of CoQ10 Does PEERtrainer Recommend?

Based on science as well as a new patent, the best CoQ10 supplement on the market right now is sold by Thorne Research. The reason is that CoQ10 is expensive, and different formulations absorb better than others. Research shows that their formula, called QBest, is 8 times more absorbable than a powdered formula, and 2 times more absorbable than the leading lipid-based formulas.

Thorne Research QBest

The Scientific Details:

Take a look at your health-food store or search online and you’ll find numerous “improved” CoQ10 brands with fancy names. Problem is that manufacturers often lack the studies to validate those hyperbolic claims.

Q-Best, on the other hand, is a patented, fully dissolved, crystal-free, lipid-based CoQ10. Its proprietary, tri-lipid technology keeps the CoQ10 fully dissolved over a broad temperature range.

This advanced technology allows Q-Best to absorb 8 times better than powder-based CoQ10 and at least 2 times better than other lipid-based CoQ10.

Clinical research proves Q-Best absorbs better.

For instance, a randomized, double-blind study with 20 people measured blood samples using 100 mg of CoQ10 over 36 hours. Q-Best absorbed nearly 8 times better than the dry CoQ10 powder.

And a 28-day bio-availability study showed people who used Q-Best had CoQ10 blood levels over 5 times higher than those who used a dry CoQ10 powder.

Clinical trials also compared plasma availability of Q-Best with 6 other CoQ10 products. Q-Best outperformed even nanoparticle and partial dissolution (in oil) CoQ10, and offered nearly twice the absorbability of the next-best CoQ10.

You also need less Q-Best to get these results. One manufacturer, for instance, used 100 mg of CoQ10 three times a day to raise plasma levels. Q-Best gets those results with a single 100-mg dose.

Give It Time

Even with the best CoQ10, don’t expect immediate results. According to Drs. Alan Gaby and Laurie Mischley, synthesis of new CoQ10-dependent enzymes takes time. You should take Q-Best consistently for eight weeks before you see results.

Because CoQ10 is a fat-soluble nutrient, you should always take Q-Best with a meal that contains fat.

Get Q-Best From Thorne Research With Free Shipping In The New PEERtrainer Shop!


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CoQ10’s antioxidant abilities: http://www.mbschachter.com/coenzyme_q10.htm

Drugs that deplete CoQ10: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/coenzyme-q10-000706.htm

Foods highest in CoQ10: http://www.hammernutrition.com/downloads/coQ10.pdf

Q Best study: http://thorne.com/media/pdfs/Q-Best-Study-0610.pdf

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