Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a vitamin-like substance found in every cell in the body, primarily in the mitochondria – the body’s energy ‘powerhouse’. CoQ10’s role in energy production means that most of it is found where our energy requirements are the highest – in the muscles and organs such as the heart.
Although we do produce CoQ10 naturally, our ability to do this declines with age – and rich dietary sources of CoQ10 such as organ meats, whilst highly nutritious, don’t feature regularly on most people’s plates. Given CoQ10’s role in energy production, its potent antioxidant properties (when taken as ubiquinol) and its importance in cardiovascular health, most adults over the age of 30 would benefit from additional supplementation – or a regular plate of liver!
The energy powerhouse
There are many reasons that people may experience low levels of energy – with diet, lifestyle and illness all key influencers. But if you have been putting your low energy levels down to too little sleep, ongoing stress or just feeling under the weather, you might want to think a little deeper. Our food provides the fuel that gives us energy, but if the body is simply inefficient at converting food into energy (even if your diet is wholesome and nutritious) then it may be worth looking at measures that can be taken to improve the process that ultimately fuels our everyday functions at both the cell and molecular levels.
The first port of call is to the (not so) humble mitochondria – tiny structures within cells often referred to as the cell ‘powerhouse’ due to their generation of adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) – the energy molecule upon which all cellular functions in the body depend. Normal mitochondrial function is essential for optimal energy production; indeed, mitochondrial dysfunction may lead to decreased ATP production and thus to low energy and fatigue. Normal mitochondrial function relies on the successful input from several ‘team players’ that participate in a series of reactions, transferring molecules called electrons from a donor molecule to an acceptor molecule and, collectively as the ‘electron transport chain’, culminate in the release of energy.
Coenzyme Q10 deficiency and energy
One of the major team players is CoQ10, which is found embedded in the mitochondrial cell membrane. As part of the energy-making process, CoQ10 acts to shuttle electrons through a series of reactions culminating in the production of ATP. As CoQ10 accepts electrons, it becomes ‘reduced’ (to ubiquinol) and as it gives up electrons, it becomes ‘oxidised’ (to ubiquinone). As long as the body is fuelled (in the form of food), and CoQ10 is present, it’s a perpetual energy process. If, however, CoQ10 levels become depleted, the production of ATP is significantly affected. For many people, low energy and fatigue may simply be a symptom of CoQ10 deficiency.
Ubiquinol CoQ10– the potent antioxidant with anti-ageing potential
CoQ10 exists in two forms – ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Ubiquinol is the body-ready form offering the greatest benefits, in particular because of its strong antioxidant properties. This means that ubiquinol helps to “mop up” potentially harmful free radicals – unstable free-floating electrons that, when not attached to other molecules, are capable of causing damage to cell membranes, which accelerate the ageing process.
Approximately 96% of total CoQ10 in the body is found as ubiquinol, reflecting the importance of the reduced, antioxidant form over the oxidised form. Ubiquinol also plays a role in the function of other antioxidants, such as vitamin E and vitamin C, by donating its spare electrons to oxidised circulating vitamins, so they are regenerated and become functional as an antioxidant again. Due to their protective effects against free radicals, antioxidants help to protect against DNA cell damage and mutation.
CoQ10 & the heart
Maintaining healthy CoQ10 levels is vitally important for a range of physical processes, but especially for organs with high energy requirements, such as the heart. Decreasing popularity of CoQ10-rich foods such as organ meats (heart, liver & kidneys) means that most people do not get adequate levels of CoQ10 in their diet, and certain prescription medications such as statins, commonly taken by people with heart problems, further deplete CoQ10 levels. In fact, research studies have linked numerous cardiovascular problems with CoQ10 deficiency.
If you’re seeking a therapeutic solution for the heart, you’ll require CoQ10 in the bioavailable ubiquinol form and at a higher daily dosage. Ubiquinol works in various ways to support the cardiovascular system; it plays a vital role in oxygen utilisation and energy production, supporting the high energy demands and therefore functioning of heart muscle cells. Ubiquinol supplementation also helps to support good circulatory health and lower blood pressure. Suggested doses for heart health are approximately 100 mg daily.
Ubiquinol’s additional role as an antioxidant extends its benefits to supporting arterial health, protecting against arterial plaque and reducing the risk of heart attack, as well as protecting heart muscle cells from free radical damage. It is also recognised as a cholesterol-lowering ‘agent’. Its many benefits offer huge potential as a cardioprotective supplement.
Not all CoQ10 supplements are the same
Ubiquinol versus ubiquinone
CoQ10 supplements have grown in popularity in recent years but, as with many types of supplement, CoQ10 comes in several forms and with varying levels of bioavailability. It can be confusing and frustrating to wade through all the information and still not know how to tell different ones apart. Ensuring you choose the right product is therefore essential, not only for the potential therapeutic outcomes, but also to ensure the best value for money. Be cautious about cheaper and seemingly ‘value for money’ versions, as you may actually be wasting your money.
We’ve already mentioned the two types of CoQ10 used in supplements: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Ubiquinol is bio-identical to over 95%, which means the body doesn’t have to convert it into a usable form. The fact that ubiquinol is ‘body-ready’ and can be used instantly gives it a therapeutic advantage over ubiquinone, which first must be converted to ubiquinol before offering any benefit. If you are aged over 40, you will reap little benefit from ubiquinone, since the body’s ability to convert it to ubiquinol reduces after the age of around 20 and is significantly impaired at middle age.
Achieving therapeutic blood plasma levels
Ubiquinone versus ubiquinol is just half the battle when it comes to CoQ10; the next challenge is overcoming bioavailability issues (how the body absorbs and utilises a nutrient), since blood plasma levels will determine the therapeutic outcome.
Ordinarily found as a fat-soluble nutrient, most large ubiquinol particles struggle to pass through the gut’s water layer barrier and are poorly absorbed – any ubiquinol not absorbed is excreted by the body. Igennus ubiquinol utilises a special patented delivery system, known as VESIsorb®, to overcome absorption problems with ubiquinol by converting it to a water-soluble nutrient – in effect, pre-digesting it into tiny particles that pass easily through the water layer barrier in the gut and into the bloodstream. Fast-tracking ubiquinol through the digestive system as tiny water particles delivers this special form of ubiquinol up to 2.5x faster than standard oil-based forms, reaching 2x higher blood plasma levels that stay ‘therapeutically active’ for up to 6 times longer. In short, you’re getting higher levels of CoQ10 into the bloodstream faster, and this increased tissue distribution of CoQ10 also remains at therapeutically active levels for longer.