What is CoQ10?
CoQ10, short for coenzyme Q10, is a compound that’s naturally found in your body. It’s also called Q10, vitamin Q10, ubiquinone, and ubidecarenone.
Your body has lots of different enzymes that speed up different chemical reactions in your body, and coenzymes help these work. Coenzyme Q10 helps the enzymes that convert fat and carbohydrates into energy for your cells. CoQ10 is also an antioxidant that protects your cells from free radicals that cause damage. Your body uses this compound to help cells grow and keep up their functions.
CoQ10 is in most tissues in your body, but it’s most prevalent in your heart, pancreas, liver, and kidneys. As you age, these levels naturally get lower, but some conditions and medications like cholesterol-lowering statins also lead to low levels.
Your body naturally makes CoQ10 from other substances, but you also get about 25% from food you eat. Foods rich in CoQ10 include:
Fruits, vegetables, eggs, and dairy also have some coenzyme Q10, though in less amounts. Most people get enough CoQ10 by eating a balanced diet, but food sources might not be enough to raise low levels in your body. Supplementing CoQ10 in some cases can be helpful, but more research is generally needed.
What are the symptoms of low CoQ10?
A rare genetic disease called primary coenzyme Q10 deficiency causes a change in the enzyme pathway and leads to low levels. Symptoms can range from minor to life-threatening and include:
- Brain changes that cause coordination and balance problems
- Muscle weakness
- Poor muscle tone
- Muscle stiffness
- Involuntary muscle spasms
- Vision loss
- Irregular eye movements
- Intellectual disability
- Weak heart muscles
- Kidney damage
- Fluid buildup in the body
- High cholesterol
- Low red blood cells
- Weak immune system
Research hasn’t found low CoQ10 in healthy people, so it’s thought that the body normally makes enough for most people. It’s not clear that low CoQ10 from aging or heart disease actually causes symptoms either.
What is CoQ10 good for?
Early treatment with CoQ10 for primary CoQ10 deficiency can improve muscle symptoms and partially help with brain symptoms.
While there’s a lot of theory about taking this supplement for different diseases, the results are mixed. Research shows that it might help some conditions, but more research is needed.
CoQ10 eases symptoms of congestive heart failure, which happens when your heart can’t pump enough blood to your whole body. It might also help recovery after heart surgery and lower your risk for complications. Some studies suggest it might help lower blood pressure, though the results are mixed.
People with diabetes often have low levels of CoQ10. Studies show that CoQ10 doesn’t seem to help regulate blood sugar, but it might help your body become more sensitive to insulin. CoQ10 also might lower total cholesterol low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, which is sometimes called bad cholesterol. Lower levels of cholesterol lower your risk for plaque buildup and heart disease.
CoQ10 might prevent migraines and lower the frequency of attacks.
Also called periodontitis, gum disease causes swelling, bleeding, and pain in your gums. People with periodontitis have low levels of CoQ10 in the gums. Taking CoQ10 might help repair tissue and help your gums heal faster.
Statin medications can lead to muscle problems called myopathy and low CoQ10. Some studies suggest that taking CoQ10 might lower these muscle pain and weakness side effects, but others suggest it doesn’t help.
Despite popular theory, CoQ10 likely doesn’t help Parkinson’s disease and there also isn't enough research for use in Lou Gehrig’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Down syndrome, or male infertility. Studies show it doesn’t help with cancer, but it might help lower heart side effects from cancer drugs.
What are the risks of taking CoQ10?
CoQ10 is generally well-tolerated with very few side effects and is safe to take, but since lots of studies show that CoQ10 supplements might not have any benefit unless you have a health problem, it’s likely best to get it naturally from food.
Some people who take supplements might have mild CoQ10 side effects like:
- Feeling sick
- Throwing up
- Loss of appetite
- Itchy skin
- Trouble sleeping
- Irritability or feeling cranky
Who should not take CoQ10?
CoQ10 hasn’t been tested in pregnancy or breastfeeding. Don’t take CoQ10 if you are or plan to be pregnant or are nursing unless your doctor says you can. CoQ10 also might interact with some medications like blood thinners, insulin, and cancer treatment.
Not everyone needs to take CoQ10 every day. If you’re thinking about taking it, talk to your doctor first.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences: “Coenzyme Q10: The essential nutrient."
Mayo Clinic: “Coenzyme Q10."
Mount Sinai: “Coenzyme Q10."
National Institute of Health National Cancer Institute: “Coenzyme Q10 (PDQ®)–Patient Version."
National Institute of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Coenzyme Q10."
Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute: “Coenzyme Q10."
Pharmaceuticals: “Coenzyme Q10 and Neurological Diseases."
US National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus: “Primary coenzyme Q10 deficiency.”
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