When it comes to CoQ10 and cellular energy protection, less is actually more.
Ask most people what they would love to have more of, and chances are “energy” would be right up there with “money” and “time” as the answer of choice. Bodily energy, or the lack of it, begins in the cell, specifically in cellular power plants called mitochondria. A number of nutrients play a role in mitochondrial energy generation, and one of the most crucial is coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).
Like many nutrients, CoQ10 comes in different forms. One of them, ubiquinol, is starting to draw attention for its potential as a more effective way to support energy production.
Heart of the Matter
CoQ10 helps the cell generate energy in two ways. First, it acts as a catalyst that allows the mitochondria to produce adenosine triposphate (ATP), the molecule that powers the cell. Second, as an antioxidant CoQ10 protects the mitochondria against free radicals, unstable byproducts of energy generation. In addition, CoQ10 helps cellular garbage disposal units known as lysosomes clean up debris, allowing the cell to function more effectively.
Among all the body’s cells, those that make up the heart require enormous amounts of energy as they keep the heart beating. Not surprisingly, cardiac cells contain large amounts of CoQ10. This nutrient helps keep blood from clotting abnormally, an important consideration for people with coronary artery disease, and makes it easier for heart cells to get the blood flow they need (Pharmacology & Therapeutics 12/09). CoQ10 has also shown ability to counteract some of the harmful effects of metabolic syndrome, a condition that can lead to heart disease (Journal of Pharmacological Sciences 6/08).
Researchers are discovering that CoQ10’s benefits extend well beyond heart health. People with mitochondrial disorders have benefited from CoQ10 supplementation. CoQ10 may improve function and reduce fatigue among those suffering from neuromuscular disorders and shows promise as an early-stage treatment for Parkinson’s disease (Neurotoxin Research 4/2/10 online). Lab studies indicate that it may be able to counteract the abnormal brain deposits seen in Alzheimer’s disease (Journal of Molecular Neuroscience 5/10). Other studies have shown possible roles for CoQ10 in treating fibromyalgia and male infertility.
Healthy people may benefit from CoQ10. Sedentary men who took the supplement showed improved exercise performance (Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 1/10). CoQ10 also helps skin cells repair wounds more quickly and may help protect skin against wrinkling (BioFactors 9-10/09).
The body often has to modify nutrients before use. In the case of CoQ10, this involves a chemical process called reduction that turns it into ubiquinol. Not only does the body’s ability to produce CoQ10 itself decline with age but its ability to reduce CoQ10 to ubiquinol declines, too. As a result, cellular energy generation is slowed and free-radical damage may occur.
It has only been within the past few years that scientists have been able to produce a stable form of supplemental ubiquinol. Researchers already knew that reduced CoQ10 helps protect low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from oxidation, an important step in preventing atherosclerosis. Now a clinical trial has shown that ubiquinol can help improve the heart’s ability to pump blood in people with congestive heart failure, a condition in which cardiac pumping power is impaired (BioFactors 4/7/09 online).
CoQ10 has been used for years by people looking for everything from heart protection to extra energy. The availabililty of ubiquinol makes this vital nutrient even more useful.