Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant that your body produces naturally. Your cells use CoQ10 for growth and maintenance.
Levels of CoQ10 in your body decrease as you age. CoQ10 levels have also been found to be lower in people with certain conditions, such as heart disease, and in those who take cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins.
CoQ10 is found in meat, fish and nuts. The amount of CoQ10 found in these dietary sources, however, isn’t enough to significantly increase CoQ10 levels in your body.
CoQ10 dietary supplements are available as capsules, chewable tablets, liquid syrups, wafers and by IV. CoQ10 might help prevent or treat certain heart conditions, as well as migraine headaches.
CoQ10 is a compound made by your body and stored in the mitochondria of your cells. The mitochondria are in charge of producing energy. They also protect cells from oxidative damage and disease-causing bacteria or viruses.
CoQ10 production decreases as you age. Thus, older people seem to be deficient in this compound.
Some other causes of CoQ10 deficiency include:
- Nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B6 deficiency
- Genetic defects in CoQ10 synthesis or utilization
- Increased demands by tissues as a consequence of disease
- Mitochondrial diseases
- Oxidative stress due to aging
- Side effects of statin treatments
Research has shown that CoQ10 plays several key roles in your body.
One of its primary functions is to help generate energy in your cells. It’s involved in making adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is involved in energy transfer within cells.
Its other crucial role is to serve as an antioxidant and protect cells from oxidative damage.
Excessive amounts of free radicals lead to oxidative damage, which can interfere with regular cell functioning. This is known to cause many health conditions.
Given that ATP is used to carry out all the body’s functions and oxidative damage is destructive to cells, it is not surprising that some chronic diseases have been linked to low levels of CoQ10.
It May Help Treat Heart Failure
Heart failure is often a consequence of other heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease or high blood pressure.
These conditions can lead to increased oxidative damage and inflammation of the veins and arteries.
Heart failure occurs when these problems affect the heart to the point that it is unable to regularly contract, relax or pump blood through the body.
To make matters worse, some treatments for heart failure have undesirable side effects, such as low blood pressure, while others could even further reduce CoQ10 levels.
In a study of 420 people with heart failure, treatment with CoQ10 for two years improved their symptoms and reduced their risk of dying from heart problems.
Also, another study treated 641 people with CoQ10 or a placebo for a year. At the end of the study, those in the CoQ10 group had been hospitalized less frequently for worsening heart failure and had fewer serious complications.
It seems that treatment with CoQ10 could assist with restoring optimal levels of energy production, reduce oxidative damage and improve heart function, all of which can aid the treatment of heart failure.
It Could Help With Fertility
Female fertility decreases with age due to a decline in the number and quality of available eggs.
CoQ10 is directly involved in this process. As you age, CoQ10 production slows, making the body less effective at protecting the eggs from oxidative damage.
Supplementing with CoQ10 seems to help and may even reverse this age-related decline in egg quality and quantity.
Similarly, male sperm is susceptible to the effects of oxidative damage, which may result in reduced sperm count, poor sperm quality and infertility.
It Might Help Keep Your Skin Young
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it’s widely exposed to damaging agents that contribute to aging.
These agents can be internal or external. Some internal damaging factors include cellular damage and hormonal imbalances. External factors include environmental agents, such as UV rays.
Harmful elements can lead to reduced skin moisture and protection from environmental aggressors, as well as the thinning of the layers of the skin.
Applying CoQ10 directly to the skin can reduce the damage from internal and external agents by increasing energy production in skin cells and promoting antioxidant protection.
In fact, CoQ10 applied directly to the skin has been shown to reduce oxidative damage caused by UV rays and even decrease the depth of wrinkles.
It Could Reduce Headaches
Abnormal mitochondrial function can lead to an increased calcium uptake by the cells, the excessive production of free radicals and decreased antioxidant protection. This can result in low energy in the brain cells and even migraines.
Since CoQ10 lives mainly in the mitochondria of the cells, it has been shown to improve mitochondrial function and help decrease the inflammation that may occur during migraines.
In fact, a study showed that supplementing with CoQ10 was three times more likely than a placebo to reduce the number of migraines in 42 people.
Additionally, CoQ10 deficiency has been observed in people suffering from migraines.
One larger study showed that 1,550 people with low CoQ10 levels experienced fewer and less severe headaches after treatment with CoQ10.
It Could Help With Exercise Performance
Oxidative stress can affect muscle function, and thus, exercise performance.
Similarly, abnormal mitochondrial function can reduce muscle energy, making it hard for muscles to contract efficiently and sustain exercise.
CoQ10 can help exercise performance by decreasing oxidative stress in the cells and improving mitochondrial functions.
In fact, one study investigated the effects of CoQ10 on physical activity. Those supplementing with 1,200 mg of CoQ10 per day for 60 days showed decreased oxidative stress.
It Could Help With Diabetes
Oxidative stress can induce cell damage. This can result in metabolic diseases like diabetes.
Abnormal mitochondrial function has also been linked to insulin resistance.
CoQ10 has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar levels.
Supplementing with CoQ10 might also help increase CoQ10 concentrations in the blood by up to three times in people with diabetes who typically show low levels of this compound.
Also, one study had people with type 2 diabetes supplement with CoQ10 for 12 weeks. Doing so significantly reduced fasting blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1C, which is the average of blood sugar levels over the past two to three months.
It Might Play a Role in Cancer Prevention
Oxidative stress is known to cause cell damage and affect their function.
If your body is unable to effectively fight oxidative damage, the structure of your cells can become damaged, possibly increasing the risk of cancer.
CoQ10 may protect cells from oxidative stress and promote cellular energy production, promoting their health and survival.
Interestingly, cancer patients have been shown to have lower levels of CoQ10.
Low levels of CoQ10 have been associated with up to a 53.3% higher risk of cancer and indicate a poor prognosis for various types of cancer.
It Is Good for the Brain
Mitochondria are the main energy generators of brain cells.
Mitochondrial function tends to decrease with age. Total mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to the death of brain cells and diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Unfortunately, the brain is very susceptible to oxidative damage due to its high fatty acid content and its high demand for oxygen.
This oxidative damage enhances the production of harmful compounds that could affect memory, cognition and physical functions.
CoQ10 Could Protect the Lungs
Of all your organs, your lungs have the most contact with oxygen. This makes them very susceptible to oxidative damage.
Increased oxidative damage in the lungs and poor antioxidant protection, including low levels of CoQ10, can result in lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Furthermore, it has been shown that people suffering from these conditions present lower levels of CoQ10.
A study demonstrated that supplementing with CoQ10 reduced inflammation in individuals who had asthma, as well as their need for steroid medications to treat it.
Research on CoQ10 use for specific conditions and activities shows:
- Heart conditions.CoQ10 has been shown to improve symptoms of congestive heart failure. Although findings are mixed, CoQ10 might help reduce blood pressure. Some research also suggests that when combined with other nutrients, CoQ10 might aid recovery in people who’ve had bypass and heart valve surgeries.
- Although more studies are needed, some research suggests that CoQ10 may help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and total cholesterol levels in people with diabetes, lowering their risk of heart disease.
- Parkinson’s disease. Recent research suggests that even high doses of CoQ10 don’t seem to improve symptoms in people with Parkinson’s disease.
- Statin-induced myopathy. Some research suggests that CoQ10 might help ease the muscle weakness and pain sometimes associated with taking statins.
- Some research suggests that CoQ10 might decrease the frequency of these headaches.
- Physical performance. Because CoQ10 is involved in energy production, it’s believed that this supplement might improve your physical performance. However, research in this area has produced mixed results.
CoQ10 supplements might be beneficial for treating conditions such as congestive heart failure and preventing migraines. CoQ10 is considered safe, with few side effects. However, be sure to take this supplement under your doctor’s supervision.
Safety and side effects
CoQ10 supplements appear to be safe and to produce few side effects when taken as directed.
Mild side effects might include digestive problems such as:
- Upper abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
Other possible side effects may include:
- Headaches and dizziness
- Skin itching or rashes
- Irritability or agitation
The safety of use of CoQ10 during pregnancy and breast-feeding hasn’t been established. Don’t use CoQ10 if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding without your doctor’s approval.
Possible interactions include:
- CoQ10 might make blood-thinning drugs, such as warfarin (Jantoven), less effective. This could increase the risk of a blood clot.