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Introduction

Coenzyme Q10 is a molecule that is produced in the body and can also be found in animals and bacteria. It serves a vital role in the body by assisting mitochondria (the power cells of your body) to create energy.

Coenzyme Q10 is essential for your body to function, but it does not need to be supplemented as the body can create its own. CoQ10 is often marketed as a powerful antioxidant, but what benefits does it offer? In this article we will examine the benefits, side effects, and safety information surrounding CoQ10.

What Is CoQ10?

Coenzyme Q10 is produced in your cells and is required for energy metabolism within the cell. CoQ10 may also protect cells as an antioxidant. There are many dietary sources of CoQ10, it can be found in high quantities in red meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs. Vegetarians and vegans can find CoQ10 in nuts, olive oil, but vegetables and grains are relatively poor sources.

Because of its ubiquity (one name for CoQ10 is actually “ubiquinone”) CoQ10 is rarely needed as a supplement to treat a deficiency. Most people get more than enough from diet or they produce their own. However, there are certain conditions that can lead to a reduction in CoQ10 production or can be treated by increased amounts of CoQ10 that can’t be met by diet alone.

As you age, your CoQ10 production will slow down. This is why CoQ10 is often mentioned as an anti-aging supplement, though this is actually quite misleading. Certain diseases can actually lower your CoQ10 levels, and drugs such as statins which are used to lower cholesterol can also deplete your reserves.

CoQ10 As A Supplement

CoQ10 supplements are mostly manufactured in Japan, where they ferment yeast to produce the molecule. Other methods involve extracting Solanesol (a compound found in tobacco leaves) and converting it into CoQ10 using bacteria. This second method is quicker and less expensive, though both produce the same product.

CoQ10 Benefits

There seem to be several benefits associated with CoQ10 supplementation, though in some cases this is down to people already having deficiencies due to age or illness. You find this a lot with certain supplements, particularly testosterone boosters. They may work, but only if you are already deficient. If you have optimal levels, then an increase may not yield any benefits.

CoQ10 Can Increase Blood Flow

CoQ10 appears to be effective at increasing blood flow and protecting blood vessels, particularly in people with low blood flow. A 2002 study on people with Type II diabetes found that CoQ10 supplementation led to an increase in blood flow thanks to its ability to preserve nitric oxide [1]. CoQ10 can also improve blood vessel health, undoing the damage caused by LDL (bad) cholesterol. This will also help to improve blood flow.

A 2013 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the effect that CoQ10 supplementation had on people who had suffered from heart failure [2]. The study found that taking CoQ10 led to a 3.67% increase in ejection fraction (how much blood is pushed out of the left ventricle whenever your heart beats).

The ability of CoQ10 to protect endothelial function (the membrane that covers your heart and blood vessels) is also evidence of its ability to increase blood flow in people with chronic heart failure. A 2006 study in the European Heart Journal found that CoQ10 was able to increase endothelial function in people suffering from chronic heart failure [3].

CoQ10 May Improve Exercise Performance For People With CHF

CHF or chronic heart failure was touched upon in the last benefit, it is where the heart cannot pump your blood around the body efficiently. It does not mean that your heart has given up, just that it is working sub-optimally. It is commonly associated with aging populations. One of the symptoms of CHF is an inability to exercise at anything over than a very low intensity.

This creates a problem, because the less you exercise, the worse it can get. Taking CoQ10 can help to protect endothelial function, increase blood flow, and reduce blood pressure. All of these things can lead to improved exercise capacity in people with CHF.

A 2011 study looked at a combination of CoQ10 and creatine monohydrate, it found that the combination was able to increase work capacity in patients with CHF [4]. Other studies have found CoQ10 alone to be effective at increasing exercise capacity.

CoQ10 Can Reduce Fatigue

One reported benefit of CoQ10 is the effect it has on fatigue. A 2008 study by Mizuno et al found that taking a CoQ10 supplement while physically fatigued led to an improvement in subjective fatigue sensation (people felt less tired) and an improvement in physical activity [5].

A 2011 study on obese subjects was designed to see if CoQ10 could reduce inflammation or oxidation [6]. The study failed to see any changes in this, however subjects reported a significant reduction in fatigue and an improvement in quality of life.

These changes appear to only be noticeable in people who are aging or overweight, in other words, people who are more likely to be physically fatigued. It is unlikely that these results would be seen in young, physically fit individuals.

CoQ10 Helps To Improve Some Symptoms Of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition where the patient feels pain throughout their body, it is unclear how or why people develop it. There is currently no cure for Fibromyalgia, but there are several ways to lessen the symptoms. A 2011 study by Cordero et al looked at the effect of CoQ10 supplementation on fibromyalgia [7]. The study found several examples of CoQ10 supplementation reducing the effects of fibromyalgia and improving quality of life in the sufferer.

CoQ10 May Help To Reduce Muscle Damage

When you exercise, you are tearing small muscle fibers during each contraction. This isn’t a bad thing, it is necessary so that you can increase your strength and muscle size (known as hypertrophy). The fibers are repaired and end up stronger during a process called protein synthesis.

Muscle damage is where your fibers are torn and your muscles become inflamed. While a small amount of muscle damage is desirable, too much can lead to severe muscle pain and potentially even injury. Ever woken up the day after a workout and found your muscles are too sore to move properly? This is down to excess muscle damage.

Studies have shown that taking CoQ10 may reduce muscle damage slightly. A 2008 study on athletes found that taking 300mg of CoQ10 led to a reduction in muscle damage, and a reduction in injuries that were caused by muscle damage [8].

CoQ10 Appears To Slow The Progression Of Alzheimer’s Disease

This benefit is only a possibility, nothing is confirmed yet. But there is a chance that CoQ10 supplementation may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. A study on mice found a slight improvement when supplementing with CoQ10 [9]. Sadly, it does not appear that CoQ10 can stop Alzheimer’s, just slow down the progression of the disease.

CoQ10 Can Prevent Migraines

A 2011 study by Slater et al looked at the effects of CoQ10 supplementation on children who suffered frequent, intense headaches or migraines [10]. The study found that those children who took CoQ10 saw reductions in pain and reductions in the severity of their headaches. The improvement is not massive, but enough to see a difference.

How To Take CoQ10?

According to examine.com, the ideal dosage of CoQ10 is between 90mg for a low dose and 200mg for a high dose [11]. There are two main types of CoQ10, either oxidised or not oxidised. Both forms appear to have the exact same effects.

The Side Effects Of CoQ10

There are rarely any side effects to taking CoQ10 provided you are sticking to the recommended dosage. But even doses twice as large as the upper limit appear to be safe. Some people may experience headaches, nausea, or diarrhea if taking too much CoQ10. While WebMD recommends people who are taking blood thinners or thyroid medication to avoid CoQ10 [12]. Diabetics should also consider avoiding this supplement as it can lower blood sugar levels.

Conclusion

In truth, very few people need to take CoQ10 supplements. It is so easy to get enough through diet, and unless you are suffering from illness or taking statins it is unlikely that you will be deficient anyway. The benefits mentioned above are useful, provided you are already deficient. There are basically no side effects unless you are taking way too much, the only real side effect would be a lightening of the wallet! Best to steer clear, unless some pretty exciting new research comes to light.

That being said, the elderly may see some benefit to supplementation, and people with Fibromyalgia may want to consider consulting their doctors, as there does appear to be some benefits to taking it.

Matthew Smith, BSc
Matthew Smith, BSc
Staff Writer & Fact Checker at DietProbe
Matthew Smith is a qualified sports scientist and registered exercise professional. He's a fitness and nutrition enthusiast and has a background in coaching and personal training.
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This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.