Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a nutrient that is essential for cellular energy production. It helps protect your cells from oxidative damage. Found in every cell of your body, CoQ10 helps generate energy for all of life’s activities, including muscle contraction, organ function, and even thought processes.
Healthy levels of CoQ10 are vital for keeping your body healthy and energized while protecting against free radical damage.
What is CoQ10?
CoQ10 is found in the mitochondria, the energy-creating organelles inside your cells. It acts as an electron carrier within the mitochondria of each cell and facilitates aerobic respiration. This process generates adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from the food you eat.i ATP is the molecule that carries energy throughout your body.
CoQ10 is also a potent antioxidant. It can help counteract free radical damage, which otherwise can lead to cell mutations or death. Through this antioxidant activity, it supports healthy mitochondria as they are susceptible to oxidative damage. Damaged mitochondria are associated with several health concerns.ii
What are the health benefits associated with CoQ10?
As mentioned, CoQ10 acts as a powerful cellular antioxidant. It can help minimize inflammation and oxidative damage in the body, both closely related to many adverse health conditions.iii Supplemental CoQ10 has been shown to help effectively bring down tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), a signaling protein related to inflammation. iv It’s also associated with modest improvements in c-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular health concerns.v CoQ10 is also associated with many other health benefits.
CoQ10 and heart health
Aside from general markers of inflammation, one of the most well-studied benefits of CoQ10 is its relationship to a healthy heart. Healthy CoQ10 levels in the body are associated with increases in HDL, the “good” protective cholesterol.vi Supplementation with CoQ10 may also positively impact risk factors related to cardiovascular health, including normalizing cholesterol levels and maintaining blood pressure within the normal range.vii viii
Oxidative stress can increase the production of molecules that interfere with the ability of blood vessels to relax, which leads to increases in blood pressure. CoQ10 appears to interrupt this process through antioxidant activity and its influence on vasodilation (relaxing the walls of your arteries or veins).ix
Conversely, low levels of CoQ10 are associated with adverse health consequences following a cardiovascular-related event. But healthy levels may help improve outcomes, including an increased tolerance for exercise once someone already has a cardiovascular health condition. x xi
Certain medications like statins are often prescribed to decrease cholesterol, but they can deplete levels of naturally occurring CoQ10 in your body. A common side effect noted from statin use is muscle pain, which may be related to low CoQ10. xii As a result, researchers have suggested that supplemental CoQ10 may normalize levels in the body and reduce the risk of these side effects. xiii
CoQ10 and reproductive health
CoQ10 may also help with reproductive health for both men and women. It’s been shown to support improvements in sperm count and motility, which may be helpful for couples trying to conceive.xiv
Research also suggests that CoQ10 may help improve the quality of egg health for women who are having difficulty getting pregnant. This again may be related to reductions in oxidative stress, something that can impact egg quality.xv Supplementation may also support women with health conditions that affect menstruation and reproductive hormones, helping to regulate ovulation and their ability to get pregnant. xvi xvii
COQ10 and energy levels
Supplementation with CoQ10 has been shown to support energy improvements for people with conditions affecting their energy levels or ability to produce enough CoQ10 on their own.xviii xix
It also appears to help improve endurance performance and exercise capacity in healthy athletic individuals.xx
Researchers suggest that the benefits associated with energy relate to improvements in mitochondrial function while reducing oxidative stress both during periods of intense physical activity. The improvements in oxidative stress are thought to be due to CoQ10’s ability to reduce the formation of free radicals that can damage cells and impair muscle function. 22
CoQ10 and beauty benefits
Supplementation with CoQ10 may also help with signs of aging. As wrinkles and sun damage are associated with an uptick of free radicals, CoQ10’s antioxidant abilities may help reduce the impact of this damage. As a result, it’s often considered an age-supporting supplement, especially since the body’s production decreases as you get older. One study found that CoQ10 improved wrinkles and skin smoothness in middle-aged women in combination with collagen supplementation.xxi
Does your body make enough CoQ10?
Production of CoQ10 significantly decreases as you get older, starting as early as age twenty. As production drops, the body can experience increases in oxidative stress without the beneficial antioxidant activity.
Additionally, the body converts the oxidized form of CoQ10 (ubiquinone) to a reduced and bioavailable form (ubiquinol) inside the body, but some people have difficulty with this conversation as they age or due to genetic predisposition.xxii
Small amounts of CoQ10 are found in foods such as:
However, given the natural reduction over time and low amounts in foods, many people choose to add CoQ10 supplements as ubiquinol.xxiii
Supplementation may also benefit people participating in strenuous exercise, as noted by some of the research on fatigue above. 22
CoQ10 for antioxidant protection
In summary, CoQ10 is an essential part of energy production and antioxidant activity in every cell of your body. Supplementing with CoQ10 not only has many health benefits but can also help increase energy levels. The production of this vital nutrient decreases as we age, so taking a supplement may be the best way to keep up your levels of CoQ10.