Unlocking Coenzyme Q10 (Part 1)

You may have heard of Co enzyme Q10. It sounds mysterious but over the next few weeks we will discover what it is, how it works and when it can be beneficial to add as supplements. Sometimes CoQ10 should be taken as a separate supplement while in others it is best when combined with other compounds.

Co enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is one of the most important substances made in our bodies. We get a tiny amount from diet but is mostly made in the liver via a series of enzymes. These enzymes make a number of compounds including cholesterol.

Main role of CoQ10

The main role is in our cell mitochondria where it is essential for making the energy our bodies need. It acts a little like both the fuel line and spark plugs in your car. It is used to transport energy within cell mitochondria and then acts like a spark plug to ignite energy. Aging, some drugs and several diseases can reduce CoQ10 levels which can have dire consequences for our health.

The unique chemistry of CoQ10 means it is also able to act as an antioxidant. It is particularly effective at helping protect the cholesterol travelling in our blood from oxidation which is the first step in the process of forming artery plaques.

CoQ10 made alongside cholesterol

CoQ10 is made in the same biochemical pathway (mevalonate) as cholesterol. The enzyme HMG-CoA reductase that makes cholesterol is at the top of this complex metabolic tree. Some drugs especially cholesterol-lowering statin drugs inhibit HMG-CoA reductase.

The technical name for statin drugs are ‘HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors.’ The statin compounds occupy a particular binding site which slows the rate of this enzyme which downstream results in less cholesterol. Think of the enzyme like a little turbine producing electricity. Slow the turbine and you will get less power. Slow down HMG-CoA reductase and you will have less cholesterol, less CoQ10 and less of many other things our bodies need.

You can see this in the following diagram. Note the position where HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) work. Then note the ‘downstream’ effect on CoQ10 and other important compounds especially squalene.

We know that statin drugs reduce CoQ10 production by as much as 50%. Logic says the higher the statin dose the greater the reduction in CoQ10 levels which is why I set supplemental CoQ10 levels based on doses and any statin side effects.

The effects on the body are much the same as reduced fuel flow to your car engine and additionally having dirty spark plugs. Low CoQ10 will be felt as low energy, stiff and achy muscles and tendons and in some cases depressed mood.

CoQ10 can switch states

CoQ10 is what chemists call a ‘redox’ agent. This means it can switch between its oxidised state as ubiquinone then change to its reduce state of ubiquinol. It does this by gaining and losing electrons. When it loses electrons it becomes fully oxidised ubiquinone. When it gains electrons it becomes fully reduced ubiquinol.

Ubiquinone and ubiquinol

Both forms are important. Ubiquinone is needed to make energy while as ubiquinol it acts like an antioxidant. If taking CoQ10 as a supplement, ubiquinone is preferred if the goal is energy processes while as ubiquinol it is better as an antioxidant. The CoQ10 made in the liver is ubiquinone which is changed to ubiquinol as needed. Once ubiquinol has donated its electrons it reverts back to ubiquinone. When it gains electrons it becomes ubiquinol.

Which is best?

The reality is that both work well and the body freely switches from its oxidised ubiquinone form to its reduced ubiquinol form as needed. The most important issue is that CoQ10 is only soluble in fats and is difficult to absorb from supplements. Additionally, the best naturally fermented CoQ10 is made in Japan or the USA.

Low cost Co enzyme Q10

Unfortunately the NZ market is now flooded with low cost semi-synthetic CoQ10 products from Asia.  This cheaper material is made from tobacco leaf.  They extract a molecule (solanesol) from tobacco that then uses bacteria to convert this to CoQ10. Personally I would not use this as the proven and more expensive natural yeast fermentation produces Co Enzyme Q10 that is exactly the same as made by your body.

The wholesale price of semi-synthetic CoQ10 is often 25% of real CoQ10. Any product that uses high grade naturally fermented CoQ10 will have a retail price of over 60 cents per 100mg. If you see a product much cheaper than this it is safe to say it is not high quality Japanese/US material. I have seen 400mg CoQ10 products that sell in retail stores for less than the actual raw material price if they were high grade CoQ10.

CoQsol® and MTQ10

I use CoQ10 in two Abundant Health products. The first is CoQsol®. This is a patented US product ideal for people who need extra CoQ10 for things like statin-support. This product is completely unique. It is one of the few CoQ10 products with proven bioavailability. Adding vitamin E and carotenoids helps protect the CoQ10 and optimise absorption. When used as statin support I will often start clients on a 200mg dose for the first month.

My MTQ10 is completely unique. This is a specific mitochondrial support formula designed to increase energy output. Each capsule has 100mg of Japanese KanekaQ10® plus a range of other mitochondrial nutrients.

Additionally it has anti-inflammatory compounds such as curcumin and is a potent antioxidant. I use this product for support of serious energy issues especially where there is some background inflammatory or neurological problem. This is a serious supplement for serious problems.

Next edition we look at the major reasons for CoQ10 supplementation. Feel free to call me if you have any questions or need information.

John Arts (B.Soc.Sci, Dip Tch, Adv.Dip.Nut.Med.) is a nutritional medicine practitioner and founder of Abundant Health. If you have questions or need help you can contact John 0800 423559.  You can email John at john@abundant.co.nz.

Please note that the health advice given through this column is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any health problem. © John Arts 2016

John Arts (B.Soc.Sci, Dip Tch, Adv.Dip.Nut.Med.) is a nutritional medicine practitioner and founder of Abundant Health. If you have questions or need help you can contact John 0800 423559.  You can email John at john@abundant.co.nz.

Please note that the health advice given through this column is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any health problem. © John Arts 2018

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