Coenzyme Q10 (commonly referred to as CoQ10) is a potent antioxidant needed by every cell in the body to support growth and maintenance. It also plays a key role in energy production, and as such can help to support the body’s function in a wide range of areas:
Antioxidant - As one of the few fat-soluble antioxidants in the body, CoQ10 plays a significant role in preventing the generation of free radicals (damage causing molecules produced in the body), thus reducing oxidative stress. Free radicals are natural by-products of metabolic activity, but their production can be increased by many modern exposures such as pollution, medication, alcohol, poor diet and stress – which results in increased antioxidant requirement to neutralise their damage.
Energy Production takes place in the mitochondria, where food and oxygen are converted to ATP – the body’s energy currency. CoQ10 is critical for supporting these mitochondrial processes as it is required for the transport of the electrons which allow this complex network of enzymes to work and produce ATP – so without CoQ10, the body cannot make this vital source of energy and tissues and organs may only be able to operate sub-optimally.
Heart Health – Mitochondrial dysfunction has long been linked to cardiovascular health and CoQ10 is found at high levels in cardiac cells. Supplementation with CoQ10 has been shown to improve measures related to heart failure, slow the progression of atherosclerosis, and prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, all contributing to cardiovascular health.
Fertility – as conception has a huge energy demand, CoQ10 may have a unique ability to support fertility. There is evidence that CoQ10 supplementation can improve semen quality and sperm count in men with infertility. Likewise, CoQ10 can support female fertility, particularly in older mothers, with studies suggesting that the age-related decline in oocyte quality and quantity could be improved by the administration of CoQ10.
Improved Physical Performance – energy production and antioxidant activity are two key parameters related to exercise performance, and both can be influenced by CoQ10 levels. In tests, CoQ10 supplementation has showed improved oxygen consumption and time to exhaustion.
Brain Health - the brain is very susceptible to oxidative damage due to its high fatty acid content, and as an antioxidant CoQ10 has the potential to reduce this damage and promote brain health. CoQ10 may also help to reduce mitochondrial dysfunction in the brain, which is associated with the onset and development of neurodegenerative diseases.
Dental Health - CoQ10 levels may be low in people with gum disease and some research suggests that boosting levels through supplementation may help to speed up gum healing. CoQ10 may also suppress periodontal inflammation and reduce gum bleeding.
Should I take it?
CoQ10 is naturally produced by the body, but the process can be inconsistent, and production significantly decline as we age so those over the age of 40, or with specific health conditions mentioned above, may wish to take a supplement. While we can get a small amount of CoQ10 through diet, in foods such as meat, fish, legumes and some vegetables, the amount is generally not enough to significantly increase levels within the body.
Lifestyle and environmental factors can also increase CoQ10 requirements. For example, high-intensity exercise may reduce levels, most probably the consequence of an excess of free radicals in the body.
Statins - statin drugs inhibit one of the key steps in CoQ10 synthesis and as such, use of these drugs has been associated with a reduction CoQ10 levels. It has been shown that supplementing with CoQ10 could mitigate some of the negative side effects of these drugs.