CoEnzyme Q10 - or simply CoQ10 - isn’t a vitamin, but it’s so important to our health that it’s a permanent member of the Rootine nutrient family. Examine.com unofficially calls it a pseudovitamin: “any molecule that is not an essential vitamin or mineral yet is similarly vital in the body”.
Vitamins are defined as substances the body needs but cannot produce in adequate amounts. While most CoQ10 is produced inside our cells, it’s just as important as any other nutrient. Food has trace amounts of CoQ10, but in relatively negligible quantities.
CoQ10 has two important properties: its role as an antioxidant (we recommend you read our free radicals vs. antioxidants piece to catch up on these terms), and its negative correlation with age.
As you get older, you have less CoQ10 in your body. This is why the nutrient has been purported to help with symptoms of aging, among many other benefits. We’ll explore these claims in the section below.
What are the benefits of CoQ10?
CoEnzyme Q10 has two forms: ubiquinone, which is involved in energy production, and ubiquinol, the antioxidant form that protects against free radical damage. CoQ10 can switch between these roles on a need-basis.
CoQ10’s ubiquinol - or antioxidant - form inevitably leads to claims of anti-aging benefits. Antioxidants are heavily marketed, often with unproven benefits, or those based on loose evidence. So let’s clear things up.
CoQ10’s biggest promise as a supplement may be its restorative effects for people with heart conditions and Parkinson’s disease. One major study found that 1.2g of supplemental CoQ10 (for perspective, one serving of beef has less than 3mg) was linked to 44% less functional decline in patients with Parkinson’s.
Cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes account for one in three deaths in the US, and over 92 million Americans live with some form of cardiovascular disease. (Much of this has to do with lifestyle: it’s estimated that 35% of coronary heart disease deaths are due to physical inactivity!)
One study with elderly Swedish citizens demonstrated that taking CoQ10 with Selenium reduced cardiovascular death by nearly 50%. CoQ10 has also been shown to reduce heart tissue damage after a heart attack, and have restorative effects after heart failure,,.
Studies have also demonstrated that CoQ10 can be useful against skin damage, cognitive decline and migraines.
How much CoQ10 should you take?
CoEnzyme Q10 is manufactured in your body (a process called biosynthesis). Levels are more dependent on age and genetic factors rather than diet,.
As you age, you body creates less CoQ10, and has more trouble converting the nutrient into its ubiquinol form - aka, its antioxidant form.
CoQ10 dosage requirements come down to age, genetics, pre-existing conditions and lifestyle.
Sources wildly vary in their recommended daily intake for CoQ10: the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, for example, suggests doses ranging from 30mg to 200mg per day!
Supplements you find at the store or online fall into a similar range.
Studies have reported people taking as much as 3g of CoQ10 per day for a duration of eight months without “significant adverse side effects”, although some participants experienced nausea, diarrhea and heartburn at varying levels.
Though studies suggest CoQ10 is a safe substance even at high doses, this is hardly an invitation to take more than you need, especially with a number of unpleasant side effects associated with high intake.
At Rootine, we factor in age, genetics, and current nutrient levels when adjusting CoQ10 dosage in your daily nutrient packets. With new subscriptions, we include an at-home DNA kit which will test for 52 gene variations that may affect your nutritional requirements.
In the case of CoEnzyme Q10, we inspect the NQO1 gene - you can learn more about it in the CoQ10 and the NQO1 gene section farther down.
Can you be deficient in CoQ10?
Although deficiency isn’t common, it’s extremely serious, and mainly caused by mutations in a set of genes involved in the production of CoQ10. See the Rootine Science section below for more information on these genes.
CoQ10 deficiency symptoms range from coordination and balance problems, to seizures, muscle problems and vision loss, among other major issues,.
Early detection of genetic variations is the best possible way to prepare yourself, and we highly suggest a DNA test to ensure your body’s CoQ10 production isn’t compromised.
What foods have CoQ10?
The Linus Pauling Institute lists beef, herring and chicken at the top of its list of foods containing CoQ10 - all contain less than 3mg of the nutrient per 85g of meat. For comparison, supplements contain 10x this amount at minimum.
Broccoli, oranges, eggs and peanuts are other sources of CoQ10, and also contain negligible amounts of the nutrient.
Some research has suggested that chlorophyll-rich vegetables, like spinach, kale, asparagus and Brussels sprouts, among many others, can improve CoQ10’s transformation into ubiquinol (the nutrient’s antioxidant form).
Are CoQ10 supplements useful?
As mentioned above, CoEnzyme Q10 supplements vary wildly in dosage. Studies suggest that less than 5% of CoQ10 gets into circulation - supplement doses in the hundreds of milligrams are not uncommon.
Those with CoQ10 deficiency and/or those who have experienced cardiovascular issues can greatly benefit from supplements, as dietary sources of CoQ10 contain very small amounts of the nutrient.
“The human body cannot absorb crystals. So, the supplement manufacturer needs to find a way to dissociate the Coenzyme Q10 crystals into single molecules and keep them dissolved in vegetable oils in soft-gel capsules.”
CoQ10 and the NQO1 gene
Rootine tests for any mutations on the NQO1 gene pair. If one or both copies are mutated, your body’s ability to convert CoQ10 to its antioxidant form - ubiquinol - is compromised.
Learn More About Rootine
Rootine is dedicated to providing personalized nutrients that fit your specific lifestyle and genetics. To learn more about the science behind our nutrient microbeads, see The Science Behind Rootine