Our bodies need lots of different nutrients and minerals to stay healthy and strong – and most of us are at least somewhat familiar with vitamins C, B12, and D, as well as key nutrients like iron and magnesium. But one important nutrient that many of us may not have heard of is CoQ10.

So what exactly is CoQ10? Why is it important to our health, and how can we make sure we’re getting enough of it? Here’s everything you need to know about CoQ10.

What is CoQ10?

Coenzyme Q10 – commonly known as CoQ10 or Ubiquinol – is a compound that’s made naturally in our bodies. It’s stored in the mitochondria of our cells, which are responsible for generating energy.

CoQ10 acts as an antioxidant; protecting cells from free radicals (unstable molecules that can damage cells), harmful bacteria, and viruses. It also helps to increase blood oxygenation and plays an important role in metabolism.

While our bodies do produce CoQ10 naturally, its production tends to decrease as we age, and older adults are more likely to be deficient in CoQ10. The good news is that you can get CoQ10 through many natural food sources, as well as supplements.

Why is CoQ10 important?

Scientific research has proven that CoQ10 plays several vital roles within our bodies. Two of its main functions are to provide energy to our cells and to act as an antioxidant. But it’s also needed for the proper function of many organs and key chemical reactions in our bodies.

So, let’s take a closer look at some of the most important health benefits of CoQ10.

It could help to treat heart failure

Heart failure is often a result of heart conditions like hypertension or coronary artery disease – conditions that can cause increased oxidative damage (damage by free radicals) and inflammation of the veins and arteries. Heart failure happens when these problems mean that the heart isn’t able to continually pump blood through the body – yet one issue is that some treatments that prevent heart failure can actually reduce CoQ10 levels.

In one study of 420 people suffering from heart failure, being treated with CoQ10 for two years improved their symptoms and decreased their risk of dying from heart issues. Another study gave half the participants CoQ10 for a year, and the other half a placebo for a year. The results showed that the CoQ10 group were hospitalised less frequently for heart problems, and had fewer complications.

It can help keep skin youthful

Our skin is the largest organ in our bodies. But because we wear it on the outside of our bodies, it’s particularly exposed to damaging factors like UV rays and free radicals, which can cause skin to become thinner, and less moist.

However, studies have shown that applying CoQ10 directly onto the skin can reduce the damage from these harmful factors by increasing energy production in skin cells and encouraging antioxidant protection. Reducing the damage from these harmful factors can also help to reduce the depth of wrinkles.

It might help to reduce headaches

When our cell mitochondria act abnormally, it can result in low energy in the brain cells – leading to headaches and migraines. Because CoQ10 is found mostly in the mitochondria of the cells, it’s been shown to boost mitochondrial function and help lessen any inflammation that occurs during migraines – and CoQ10 deficiency has also been observed in people who suffer from migraines.

One study found that people with low levels of CoQ10 experienced fewer and less painful headaches after they started supplementing with CoQ10. Other studies suggest that CoQ10 doesn’t only help treat migraines, it might also even help to prevent them.

It’s good for the brain

Mitochondria are the main energy producers of brain cells. As we get older, mitochondrial function tends to decrease, and when our mitochondria don’t work properly, it can cause brain cells to die ( which can lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s).

One problem is that due to their high fatty acid content and high oxygen requirement, our brains are very susceptible to oxidative damage. Oxidative damage can create harmful compounds that affect memory, cognition, and physical functions.

Because CoQ10 has been shown to protect brain cells from oxidative damage, it might help to slow the effects of these harmful compounds, which in turn may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

It may play a role in preventing cancer

We know that oxidative stress can cause cell damage and affect the ways they function – and when our bodies can’t fight oxidative stress properly, the structure of our cells can be harmed, which might increase the risk of cancer.

Because CoQ10 promotes cellular energy production and helps protect cells from oxidative stress, it is linked to both cancer prevention and recurrence – and cancer patients generally tend to have lower levels of CoQ10.

It may help protect the lungs

Our lungs have the most contact with oxygen out of all our organs – but this makes them more prone to oxidative stress and damage (because free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules). Having high levels of oxidative damage in the lungs can lead to lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Plus, studies show that people suffering from these conditions usually have lower levels of CoQ10.

One study found that for people suffering from asthma, supplementing with CoQ10 helped reduce inflammation, as well as the need to turn to steroid medication. Other studies of people suffering from COPD found that their exercise performance was boosted when they were supplemented with CoQ10, as their tissue oxygenation and heart rate were improved.

Am I getting enough CoQ10?

If you’re concerned that your body isn’t making enough CoQ10, or you’re not getting enough from your diet, the first thing you should do is see your health professional.

Studies show that while CoQ10 is similarly absorbed in supplement form or through foods, the fact that nutrients work best when combined with other nutrients means that it’s always preferable to obtain vitamins and minerals through your diet, rather than through supplements.

The good news is that there are lots of different foods that contain CoQ10:

  • Vegetables like spinach, cauliflower, and broccoli
  • Fatty fish including trout, herring, mackerel, and sardines
  • Organ meats like heart, liver, and kidney
  • Legumes like soybeans, lentils, and peanuts
  • Fruits including oranges and strawberries
  • Nuts and seeds including sesame seeds and pistachios
  • Oils including soybean and canola oil

However, if you’re concerned that you have low levels of CoQ10, then you might want to talk to your doctor about taking a supplement. The exact recommended dose of CoQ10 varies depending on someone’s age, general health, and any relevant health conditions, so it’s really important to speak to a health professional before choosing a supplement and dosage.

Generally speaking though, standard daily doses of CoQ10 range from 60mg to 500 mg, and the absolute highest recommended dose is 1,200 mg. CoQ10 comes in two different forms: ubiquinol and ubiquinone. If you’re choosing a supplement, ubiquinol is usually recommended; this is because it accounts for 90% of the CoQ10 in the blood and is the most absorbable type of CoQ10. You can buy CoQ10 ubiquinol supplements on Amazon or at Holland & Barrett.

Because CoQ10 is fat-soluble, it’s best to take supplements with food to improve its absorption.

Final thoughts...

CoQ10 is an important nutrient that plays a crucial role within the body. It helps produce cellular energy and serves as an antioxidant, which makes it helpful in the preservation of cells and both the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

It’s also been shown to boost heart health and blood sugar regulation, help with treating and preventing cancer, and reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. There’s also evidence suggesting that it improves the quality of the skin, brain, and lungs and protects against damage and disease.