Coenzyme Q10 also called CoQ10, q10, ubiquinone, and ubidecarenone is a vitamin-like substance found in human mitochondria. Coenzyme Q10 plays a crucial role in generating the body’s energy and occurs in high concentrations in organs with high energy requirements, such as the liver, heart, and kidneys. Because CoQ10 is an energy carrier, in its reduced form of ubiquinol, it also has powerful antioxidant properties, making it a popular nutritional supplement.
What is Coenzyme Q10, and What Does It Supplement?
CoQ10 is metabolized in all tissues of the body, providing energy for cell regeneration. This ubiquitous presence of q10 in every cell contributes to the many variations on its name. As a carrier of energy, the CoQ10 molecule undergoes many cycles of oxidation and reduction, so it eventually becomes an antioxidant, attacking free radicals that can cause cell damage throughout the body. It also regenerates Vitamin E and prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol — the so-called “bad” cholesterol.
CoQ10 is produced naturally in the body throughout life, although levels decline with age. Likewise, some diseases and genetic conditions cause lower levels of CoQ10, and so can some prescription medications. But CoQ10 can be added through foods and supplementation. A diet rich in organ meats, healthy oils, nuts, and seeds, as well as vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, provides significant amounts of this enzyme.
Because of CoQ10’s potent antioxidant qualities, it is also a popular nutritional supplement purchased through health food stores and natural food outlets. Widely believed to improve the body’s immune system functioning and ward off severe health problems such as cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer, CoQ10 supplements are unregulated, and their safety has raised concerns among some health professionals.
Although CoQ10 supplements appear to be generally harmless in low doses, taking more than 100 mg daily can cause reactions such as insomnia and gastrointestinal problems. Long-term consumption of more than 300 mg per day can elevate liver enzymes. Other reactions include headache, dizziness, heartburn, rashes, and photophobia.
Other problems with q10 supplementation include interactions with a wide range of prescription and non-prescription medications. People with diabetes may experience changes in their response to insulin, and q10 can also change the body’s response to the blood thinner Warfarin. Those taking statin drugs for cholesterol may be at particular risk for side effects since these drugs can deplete the body’s supply of the enzyme. Coenzyme Q10 can also interfere with the action of numerous over the counter medications such as aspirin, antacids, and laxatives.
Other areas of concern involve taking q10 supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding. And, since high levels of CoQ10 are required by high-energy organs such as the heart, large doses of supplements can create particular risks for sufferers of cardiovascular diseases. Experts advise supplement users to consult with their healthcare professionals about interactions with other drugs and the effects of CoQ10 on various health conditions.
Coenzyme Q10 is an essential part of the body’s energy production and conversion system, offering antioxidant protection as well as nourishing all the body’s tissues. Although supplements can be helpful when natural levels of the enzyme are low, experts urge using them with caution.