Coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10, is a compound that helps generate energy in your cells.
Your body produces CoQ10 naturally, but its production tends to decrease with age. Fortunately, you can also get CoQ10 through supplements or foods.
Health conditions like heart disease, brain disorders, diabetes, and cancer have been linked to low levels of CoQ10 (1).
It is not clear whether low levels of CoQ10 cause these diseases or are a result of them.
One thing is for certain: plenty of research has revealed CoQ10’s wide range of health benefits.
Here is all you need to know about CoQ10.
CoQ10 is a compound made by your body and stored in the mitochondria of your cells (2).
The mitochondria are in charge of producing energy. They also protect cells from oxidative damage and disease-causing bacteria or viruses (3).
CoQ10 production decreases as you age. Thus, older people seem to be deficient in this compound.
- Nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B6 deficiency
- Genetic defects in CoQ10 synthesis or utilization
- Increased demands by tissues as a consequence of disease
- Mitochondrial diseases
- Oxidative stress due to aging
- Side effects of statin treatments
Research has shown that CoQ10 plays several key roles in your body.
One of its primary functions is to help generate energy in your cells. It’s involved in making adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is involved in energy transfer within cells (2).
Excessive amounts of free radicals lead to oxidative damage, which can interfere with regular cell functioning. This is known to cause many health conditions (6).
Given that ATP is used to carry out all the body's functions and oxidative damage is destructive to cells, it is not surprising that some chronic diseases have been linked to low levels of CoQ10 (5).
CoQ10 is present in every cell of your body. However, the highest concentrations are found in organs with the greatest energy demands, such as the heart, kidneys, lungs and liver (7).
The following is a list of the 9 main benefits of CoQ10.
Heart failure is often a consequence of other heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease or high blood pressure (8).
Heart failure occurs when these problems affect the heart to the point that it is unable to regularly contract, relax or pump blood through the body (8).
To make matters worse, some treatments for heart failure have undesirable side effects, such as low blood pressure, while others could even further reduce CoQ10 levels (10).
In a study of 420 people with heart failure, treatment with CoQ10 for two years improved their symptoms and reduced their risk of dying from heart problems (11).
Also, another study treated 641 people with CoQ10 or a placebo for a year. At the end of the study, those in the CoQ10 group had been hospitalized less frequently for worsening heart failure and had fewer serious complications (12).
It seems that treatment with CoQ10 could assist with restoring optimal levels of energy production, reduce oxidative damage and improve heart function, all of which can aid the treatment of heart failure (8).
Summary: CoQ10 seems to help treat heart failure by improving heart function, increasing ATP production and limiting oxidative damage.
Female fertility decreases with age due to a decline in the number and quality of available eggs.
CoQ10 is directly involved in this process. As you age, CoQ10 production slows, making the body less effective at protecting the eggs from oxidative damage (13).
Supplementing with CoQ10 seems to help and may even reverse this age-related decline in egg quality and quantity.
Summary: The antioxidant properties of CoQ10 could help improve sperm quality and reduce the decline in the number and quality of eggs in women.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it’s widely exposed to damaging agents that contribute to aging.
These agents can be internal or external. Some internal damaging factors include cellular damage and hormonal imbalances. External factors include environmental agents, such as UV rays (17).
Applying CoQ10 directly to the skin can reduce the damage from internal and external agents by increasing energy production in skin cells and promoting antioxidant protection (19).
In fact, CoQ10 applied directly to the skin has been shown to reduce oxidative damage caused by UV rays and even decrease the depth of wrinkles (20).
Lastly, people with low levels of CoQ10 seems to be more likely to develop skin cancer (21).
Summary: When applied directly to the skin, CoQ10 can reduce sun damage and increase antioxidant protection. Supplementing with CoQ10 may also help decrease the risk of skin cancer.
Abnormal mitochondrial function can lead to an increased calcium uptake by the cells, the excessive production of free radicals and decreased antioxidant protection. This can result in low energy in the brain cells and even migraines (22).
Since CoQ10 lives mainly in the mitochondria of the cells, it has been shown to improve mitochondrial function and help decrease the inflammation that may occur during migraines (23).
In fact, a study showed that supplementing with CoQ10 was three times more likely than a placebo to reduce the number of migraines in 42 people (24).
Additionally, CoQ10 deficiency has been observed in people suffering from migraines.
One larger study showed that 1,550 people with low CoQ10 levels experienced fewer and less severe headaches after treatment with CoQ10 (25).
What’s more, it seems that CoQ10 not only helps treat migraines but may also prevent them (26).
Summary: Supplementing with CoQ10 seems to help prevent and treat migraines, as it increases mitochondrial function and reduces inflammation.
Oxidative stress can affect muscle function, and thus, exercise performance (27).
CoQ10 can help exercise performance by decreasing oxidative stress in the cells and improving mitochondrial functions (30).
In fact, one study investigated the effects of CoQ10 on physical activity. Those supplementing with 1,200 mg of CoQ10 per day for 60 days showed decreased oxidative stress (31).
Summary: Exercise performance can be affected by oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction. CoQ10 can help lower oxidative damage, promote exercise capacity and decrease fatigue.
Oxidative stress can induce cell damage. This can result in metabolic diseases like diabetes (35).
CoQ10 has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar levels (36).
Also, one study had people with type 2 diabetes supplement with CoQ10 for 12 weeks. Doing so significantly reduced fasting blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1C, which is the average of blood sugar levels over the past two to three months (39).
Lastly, CoQ10 might help prevent diabetes by stimulating the breakdown of fats and reducing the accumulation of fat cells that could lead to obesity or type 2 diabetes (40).
Summary: Supplementing with CoQ10 can help increase insulin sensitivity and improve blood sugar levels.
Oxidative stress is known to cause cell damage and affect their function (41).
Interestingly, cancer patients have been shown to have lower levels of CoQ10.
What’s more, one study also suggested that supplementing with CoQ10 may help reduce the chance of cancer recurrence (46).
Summary: CoQ10 plays a critical role in the protection of cell DNA and cell survival, both of which are strongly linked to cancer prevention and recurrence.
Mitochondria are the main energy generators of brain cells.
Mitochondrial function tends to decrease with age. Total mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to the death of brain cells and diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's (47).
Unfortunately, the brain is very susceptible to oxidative damage due to its high fatty acid content and its high demand for oxygen.
Summary: CoQ10 has been shown to protect brain cells from oxidative damage and reduce the action of harmful compounds that can lead to brain disease.
Of all your organs, your lungs have the most contact with oxygen. This makes them very susceptible to oxidative damage.
Increased oxidative damage in the lungs and poor antioxidant protection, including low levels of CoQ10, can result in lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (52).
A study demonstrated that supplementing with CoQ10 reduced inflammation in individuals who had asthma, as well as their need for steroid medications to treat it (55).
Another study showed improvements in exercise performance in those suffering from COPD. This was observed through better tissue oxygenation and heart rate after supplementing with CoQ10 (56).
Summary: CoQ10 can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation that results in diseases of the lungs.
CoQ10 comes in two different forms — ubiquinol and ubiquinone.
The standard dose of CoQ10 ranges from 90 mg to 200 mg per day. Doses up to 500 mg seem well tolerated, and several studies have used even higher doses without any serious side effects (59), (60), (61) .
Because CoQ10 is a fat-soluble compound, its absorption is slow and limited. However, taking CoQ10 supplements with food can help your body absorb it up to three times faster than taking it without food (2, 62).
Supplementing with CoQ10 appears to be well tolerated by humans and have low toxicity (58).
In fact, participants in some studies showed no major side effects taking daily doses of 1,200 mg for 16 months (51).
However, if side effects appear, it is recommended to divide the daily dose into two to three smaller doses.
Summary: Since CoQ10 is fat-soluble, it is recommended to take it with food or use products that combine it with oils to improve its absorption. Supplementing with CoQ10 appears to be well tolerated by individuals and has low toxicity.
While you can easily consume CoQ10 as a supplement, it can also be found in some foods.
It appears that CoQ10 is similarly absorbed in capsule form or through foods (67).
The following foods contain CoQ10:
- Organ meats: Heart, liver and kidney
- Some muscle meats: Pork, beef and chicken
- Fatty fish: Trout, herring, mackerel and sardine
- Vegetables: Spinach, cauliflower and broccoli
- Fruit: Oranges and strawberries
- Legumes: Soybeans, lentils and peanuts
- Nuts and seeds: Sesame seeds and pistachios
- Oils: Soybean and canola oil
Summary: CoQ10 is found in some foods, especially organ meats. Also, it seems that it’s as equally well absorbed through foods as it is through supplements.
CoQ10 is a fat-soluble, vitamin-like compound that seems to have many health benefits.
It is involved in the production of cellular energy and serves as an antioxidant.
These properties make it helpful in the preservation of cells and the prevention and treatment of some chronic diseases.
CoQ10 has been shown to help improve heart health and blood sugar regulation, assist in the prevention and treatment of cancer and reduce the frequency of migraines.
It could also reduce the oxidative damage that leads to muscle fatigue, skin damage and brain and lung diseases.
CoQ10 can be found as a supplement that seems to be well tolerated. Additionally, it’s found in some foods like animal organs, vegetables and legumes.
Since CoQ10 production decreases with age, adults of every age could benefit from more of it.
Whether you consume more foods with a high CoQ10 content or take supplements, CoQ10 could benefit your health.