Q10 is a biochemical spark inside human cells that is vitally important for life.
Co-enzyme Q10, or Q10 for short, is an important vitamin-like compound that helps convert carbohydrates and fats into energy. All cells have varying amounts of Q10. Very metabolically active tissue, like the heart, gums and muscles have more Q10. It is a fat-soluble compound that accepts and transfers electrons inside cells and is concentrated in organelles within cells called mitochondria.
Mitochondria act as tiny generators, that literally generate energy within cells. The average cell has about 2,500 mitochondria per cell. The heart has more than 8,000 mitochondria per cell.
After food is ingested, digested and absorbed through the digestive system, it travels to cells via the bloodstream. Complex carbohydrates are broken down by enzymes to become simple sugars. The sugars are absorbed by cells and further broken down to generate energy for each cell. Q10 is used in mitochondria to accept and transfer electrons from these broken-down sugars.
The human body can make about two to three milligrams of Q10 per day. Dietary sources supply an additional three to six milligrams per day. Rich sources of the co-enzyme include meat, fish, nuts and seeds, vegetables like broccoli and whole grains. The body’s stores between 500 and 1,500 milligrams of it.
There are two types of Q10 in supplements, namely ubiquinol and ubiquinone. Contrary to marketing hype, both are biologically active. Ubiquinol, which tends to be more expensive, is moderately better absorbed. Most studies have been done on ubiquinone.
There are only a few Q10 manufacturers in the world and they supply most of it to various vitamin companies. The demand for the co-enzyme is ever-increasing and sales will soon be well over $1 billion per year in North America.
Q10 is poorly absorbed and is best taken with other fats or oils. Supplements vary in concentration from 30 to 300 milligrams. Many nutritionally oriented practitioners often recommend a dose of between 100 to 200 milligrams per day. Doses of up to 3,000 milligrams per day have been consumed by some individuals without negative effects.
Even though Q10 is fat-soluble, it does not appear to accumulate in the body. Deficiency, while rare, can still occur.
Genetic diseases of mitochondrial dysfunction are marked by Q10 problems. If the mitochondria aren’t working properly, the cells are not properly oxidizing food and generating energy. Many drugs and toxins can interfere with mitochondrial and Q10 function. One of the leading theories of aging is hallmarked by mitochondrial dysfunction and Q10 disruption.
Statins—drugs used to lower cholesterol—can disrupt Q10 production and cause deficiency. This occurs because the co-enzyme is made from the same basic precursor molecule as cholesterol. Most cholesterol production occurs in the liver. The clinical significance of this disruption is not fully known yet. Common side effects of statins include unusual muscle aches and myalgias. Q10 can help prevent muscle pains in some people taking statins and in others it makes no difference.
The co-enzyme occurs in large amounts in heart muscle. It is safe to take with all heart disorders and can help to improve heart muscle function in some individuals with poor function, like congestive heart failure (CHF). Its use in heart rhythm disorders has not been clearly demonstrated.
Q10 can help improve kidney function in some individuals and can also help improve muscle energy, though its use to improve athletic performance has not been clearly demonstrated. Some patients with fibromyalgia report some benefit with it, while others, with unexplained fatigue, report some benefit in energy with supplements.
It has also shown some benefit in neurological degenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease, Ataxias or coordination and balance disorders and can improve periodontal and gum disease. Topical application of Q10 to gums can improve gum health.
It is widely used as a topical skin treatment to prevent oxidative damage to the skin and prevent aging. Its derivatives are widely used in expensive skin creams for this purpose. One simple caveat can be opening a capsule of Q10 and applying to damage skin and aging skin.
Q10 supplements are very safe to take and side effects are benign, including nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea. While similar in structure to vitamin K, it can interfere in vitamin K dependent blood clotting. It is generally considered safe in pregnancy, though not recommended as a supplement.
Finally, is not generally recommended for children.
The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical advice. All information and content are for general information purposes only.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.