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Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is a naturally occurring chemical that exists in almost every cell of the human body. CoQ10 carries out several vital roles, including promoting energy production and neutralizing harmful particles called free radicals.
A deficiency in CoQ10 can adversely affect a person’s health. People can get CoQ10 through foods and supplements.
In this article, we discuss the benefits, side effects, and recommended dosages of CoQ10.
CoQ10 is an essential nutrient present in almost every cell of the human body. The following foods also contain CoQ10:
Several factors can lower CoQ10 levels in the body. These include:
- taking statins, which are cholesterol-lowering medications
- genetic mutations that affect the production of CoQ10
- disorders of the mitochondria, which are the parts of the cell that generate energy
CoQ10 deficiency is associated with numerous diseases, including:
For the body to use CoQ10, it must convert it from its inactive form, ubiquinone, into it its active form, ubiquinol.
Mitochondria are responsible for powering the body’s cells. To do this, they use CoQ10 to produce the chemical adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This process is known as ATP synthesis. ATP is the primary source of energy for the body’s cells.
However, mitochondria produce free radicals during ATP synthesis.
Under normal conditions, free radicals regulate communication between cells and defend the body against infectious microbes. However, excess free radicals cause DNA damage, which can lead to the following:
- DNA mutations
- tissue damage
CoQ10 acts as an antioxidant by neutralizing free radicals. In this way, CoQ10 helps protect cells from the harmful effects of DNA damage.
The exact recommended dose of CoQ10 will vary according to the following factors:
- a person’s age
- a person’s health
- the condition receiving treatment
Standard daily doses of CoQ10 range from 60 milligrams (mg) to 500 mg. The highest recommended dose is 1,200 mg. However, clinical trials have used dosages as high as 3,000 mg per day.
Different types of CoQ10 supplements may also require different dosages. Most supplements contain the inactive form of CoQ10, ubiquinone, which is harder to absorb than ubiquinol.
A 2018 randomized trial compared the effects of 200 mg daily doses of ubiquinone and ubiquinol supplements on CoQ10 levels in older men. Ubiquinol supplementation led to a 1.5-fold increase in the amount of CoQ10 in the blood. Supplements containing ubiquinone did not have a significant effect on CoQ10 levels.
CoQ10 protects cells against oxidative damage. It also plays a vital role in producing the body’s primary source of energy, ATP. CoQ10 could, therefore, provide a range of health benefits. Some examples include:
Improving heart health
The heart contains some of the highest concentrations of CoQ10 in the body. The vast majority of people with heart disease also have low CoQ10 levels. Researchers now consider low CoQ10 levels to be an indicator of the severity and long term outcome of various heart diseases.
In one 2018 pilot study, ten children with cardiac muscle dysfunction received 110–700 mg of liquid ubiquinol per day. At weeks 12 and 24 of treatment, the children had significantly higher CoQ10 plasma levels and improved heart function.
Reducing muscle pain from statin use
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term for conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels. Doctors often prescribe statins to treat CVD. These drugs work by reducing the cholesterol production that can contribute to the disease.
Although statins reduce cholesterol production, they also lower CoQ10 levels. Reduced CoQ10 levels can lead to mitochondrial dysfunction, which can cause muscle pain, or myopathy.
CoQ10 supplements may help relieve muscle pain related to statin use.
A 2019 randomized controlled trial investigated the effect of CoQ10 on statin-related muscle pain. The study involved 60 participants who had previously reported muscle pain while taking statins. Over 3 months, each participant received daily doses of either 100mg of CoQ10 supplement or a placebo.
The participants who took the CoQ10 supplements had significantly reduced statin-related muscle pain. Those who received the placebo reported no change in muscle pain.
However, the authors of a 2015 meta-analysis evaluated the efficacy of CoQ10 supplementation for treating statin-related muscle pain. The meta-analysis included six studies with a combined total of 302 patients. The authors found no evidence that CoQ10 significantly improves statin-related muscle pain.
Further large-scale RCTs are necessary to determine whether CoQ10 is a viable treatment for people experiencing statin-related muscle pain.
Chronic migraines may be due to inflammation of neurons and cells in a part of the brain called the trigeminovascular system.
A 2018 clinical trial investigated whether coQ10 supplements could reduce inflammation in 45 women with episodic migraines. The women took 400 mg daily doses of either a CoQ10 supplement or a placebo. The women who took the CoQ10 supplements had fewer and less intense migraines when compared to the placebo group.
Women who took the CoQ10 supplements also showed lower levels of certain inflammatory biomarkers. Inflammatory biomarkers are substances in the blood that indicate the presence of inflammation somewhere in the body.
A 2018 meta-analysis reexamined five studies investigating the use of CoQ10 supplements for migraines. The meta-analysis concluded that CoQ10 is more effective than a placebo at reducing the duration of migraines. However, CoQ10 did not appear to affect migraine severity or frequency.
Protecting against age-related diseases
Mitochondrial function decreases as the body’s CoQ10 levels naturally deplete with age.
Research suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction can contribute to age-related neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. These diseases are associated with free radical damage.
A 2015 study investigated the effect of a Mediterranean diet combined with CoQ10 supplementation on metabolism in elderly adults. This combination led to an increase in antioxidant biomarkers in the urine.
The authors concluded that taking CoQ10 and eating a diet low in saturated fat may help protect against diseases caused by free radical damage.
CoQ10 supplements appear to be safe, and most people tolerate them even at high doses. However, CoQ10 supplements can cause the following side effects:
CoQ10 supplements may interfere with certain medications, including:
People should consult a doctor before taking any new medications or dietary supplements, including CoQ10.
CoQ10 is an antioxidant that exists in almost every cell of the human body. CoQ10 deficiency is associated with various medical conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Although the body naturally produces CoQ10, some people may benefit from taking supplements. Overall, CoQ10 supplements appear relatively safe and cause few side effects. Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for purity or verified for labeling accuracy, so purchase only those products that have been tested by an independent lab.
People who are interested in trying CoQ10 supplements may want to consult a healthcare professional first. Experts do not recommend CoQ10 for people taking blood-thinning medications, insulin, or certain chemotherapy drugs.
CoQ10 is available in some drug stores, pharmacies, and online.