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Coenzyme Q-10, or CoQ10 for short, is a powerful antioxidant found in humans and many other organisms. But unlike many other antioxidants, the benefits of CoQ10 don’t stop at fighting free radicals. CoQ10 also plays a vital role in transporting energy to organs and tissue at the molecular level.
CoQ10 is made by the body and is used in your cell’s energy factory, the mitochondria. Mitochondria take the foods you eat and turns them into energy for your cells to use. CoQ10 plays an essential role when it comes to mitochondrial function (all while providing protection against free radical damage).
In addition to producing CoQ10 on your own, you can find CoQ10 in foods such as:
- Certain oils
While certain foods have high levels of CoQ10, it can be difficult to reap the benefits of dietary CoQ10 unless it’s been fortified.
Your body’s CoQ10 production can also be disrupted by factors such as age, the medications you take, and genetic disorders. Having a low CoQ10 commonly causes problems such as muscle pain and fatigue and can make serious existing issues, like a heart condition, worse. Read on to explore this powerful energy-producing antioxidant.
How is CoQ10 used in the body?
CoQ10 helps improve energy use and supports your immune system in addition to being an impressive lipid-based antioxidant. Because of these powerful properties, CoQ10 has been explored as a way to support heart health, boost energy levels, and addressing many other common concerns.
By being one of the most powerful antioxidants made by your body, CoQ10 prevents damaging alterations in your DNA caused by oxidative stress. These alterations can lead to age-related changes (specifically in the skin). CoQ10 also fights against modifications to proteins and fats caused by free radical damage.
What are some specific benefits of CoQ10?
CoQ10 levels are highest in organs that use a lot of energy, also known as having high rates of metabolism. Organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys use CoQ10 as a way of obtaining the energy they need to maintain proper function.
The heart uses CoQ10 to transfer energy and protect itself from free radical damage (caused by reactive oxygen species).
CoQ10 also prevents LDL – the ‘bad’ kind of cholesterol from forming around the heart and blood vessels. In doing so, CoQ10 helps prevent build-up of fatty plaque in arteries and veins (atherosclerosis).
Other cardiac benefits of CoQ10 include reducing inflammation and improving circulation after an injury has occurred like a heart attack or stroke. CoQ10 has such a significant impact on heart health that CoQ10 blood levels can be used on its own to help predict how well an individual with congestive heart failure will recover.
CoQ10 also contributes to your cellular energy as well as your perceived energy. A study of CoQ10 and selenium supplementation involving older adults over a four-year period showed increased vitality, physical performance, and quality of life.
What causes CoQ10 to become depleted?
CoQ10 is needed in every single cell of your body – making it extremely important to your overall health and vitality. Unfortunately, there are several factors that can lead to a CoQ10 deficiency.
Age is the biggest factor when it comes to CoQ10 depletion, but there are specific medications that can interfere with CoQ10 production. Statins, a class of drugs used to treat high cholesterol, have been shown to impair CoQ10 synthesis and contribute to CoQ10 depletion.
Even short-term use of statin therapy (as little as two weeks!) can drastically reduce your CoQ10 levels. This is especially troubling since many patients with cardiovascular issues are prescribed statin therapy to reduce their cholesterol.
Since CoQ10 plays a huge role in heart health – it’s one antioxidant you definitely don’t want to deplete – especially if you are suffering from heart issues or other risks factors.
And genetic factors such as mutations in CoQ genes can also reduce CoQ10 levels, causing primary CoQ10 deficiency or coenzyme Q deficiency. Some of these genetic conditions are diagnosed early in life and others aren’t identified until someone is older and experiencing symptoms.
What are the symptoms of low CoQ10?
Symptoms of low CoQ10 include muscle loss and weakness. Muscle pain (myopathy) is also prevalent when CoQ10 levels drop.
Muscle pain, especially in the legs, is a top reason that patients stop statin therapy. Numerous studies have shown if someone takes a CoQ10 supplement while on statins, muscle pain is drastically reduced. This may be due to the supplement simply restoring CoQ10 levels that are being depleted by the therapy itself.
Fatigue is also seen in people with low CoQ10. Low levels of CoQ10 were found in nearly half of patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in a study done in Belgium. Patients who had lower CoQ10 levels had higher levels of reported fatigue.
Inflammation can also occur with low CoQ10 since the benefits of inflammatory regulation are reduced. There can be an increase in pro-inflammatory markers and other inflammatory substances in people with low CoQ10 levels. This can make symptoms worse for patients who have conditions like fibromyalgia which can flare up from excessive inflammation.
While you may not have thought much about CoQ10 – it’s working hard for you, all day long. From helping your cells get the energy they need to fighting off free radicals, CoQ10 is a powerhouse antioxidant that can make a big difference in how energetic you feel as well as mitigating your risk for serious cardiovascular problems.