In the supplement aisle of your health food store, you’ve probably come across a supplement containing something called CoQ10. What exactly is CoQ10? Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is an antioxidant that your body produces naturally, that your cells use for growth and maintenance. 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.1 This antioxidant is found in most living things and is used by our cells to process energy and function properly.2 Naturally occurring CoQ10 decreases as we age, but luckily, CoQ10 is available in some foods, and also as a supplement. One thing is for certain, plenty of research has revealed CoQ10’s wide range of health benefits.
Why Our Bodies Need CoQ10
Our cells use CoQ10 to help turn the energy we get from consuming carbohydrates into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the form of energy our cells can actually use to carry out their functions in the body. ATP is essential for healthy metabolism, bones, and neurological and muscle functioning. The healthy body naturally produces coenzyme Q10 in quantities sufficient to prevent deficiency, though this production does decrease with age, which we will talk a little more about below. CoQ10 also functions as an antioxidant, and is particularly effective when combined with vitamins E and C and selenium, to help prevent free radical damage to our cells.
It is not an understatement to say that CoQ10 is absolutely essential for life. It helps to metabolize fats and carbohydrates, and maintains cell membrane stability. It is also an effective free radical scavenger that may beneficially affect the aging process. As we age, our body’s production of CoQ10 declines gradually. Because it’s so important to energy production, researchers believe that this decline may be a factor in the effects of aging on the human body, such as heart failure, skin damage, and cognitive health .3
Research on CoQ10 has shown that it can improve these specific conditions:
Heart conditions: CoQ10 has been shown to improve symptoms of congestive heart failure. Some research also suggests that when combined with other nutrients, CoQ10 might aid recovery in people who have had bypass and heart valve surgeries.4
Migraines: Some research suggests that CoQ10 might decrease the frequency of these headaches. Since CoQ10 lives mainly in the mitochondria of cells, it has been shown to improve mitochondrial function and help decrease the inflammation that may occur during migraines.5
Physical performance: Because CoQ10 is involved in energy production, it’s believed that this supplement might improve your physical performance. It can help to decrease oxidative stress in the cells and improve mitochondrial function.6
Foods Containing CoQ10
While you can easily consume CoQ10 as a supplement, it can also be found in some foods, especially meat, poultry and fish. Though it is important to note that the amounts of the antioxidant in these foods are not high enough to significantly boost levels in the body, healthy eating offers a number of benefits to whole body wellness. Here are some foods that contain CoQ10:
Meats: pork, beef, and chicken
Fatty fish: Trout, herring, sardines
Legumes: Soybeans, lentils, and peanuts
Nuts and seeds: Sesame seeds and pistachios
Veggies: Spinach, broccoli and cauliflower
Fruit: oranges and strawberries
Oils: Soybean and canola
Real-Life Example of Benefits of CoQ10
While it’s nice explaining the benefits of CoQ10, it helps to see them in a real-life example. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study, which was conducted at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, looked at the impact CoQ10 had on a group of firefighters who were at moderate risk of heart disease. All of the firefighters underwent testing using Cardiac CT, an imaging technology that accurately measures coronary artery calcium deposits (CAC) and plaque buildup in the arteries. C-reactive protein (CRP) – a marker of internal inflammation that may contribute to a higher risk of heart attack – was also measured.
Once their risk was determined, the firefighters were given either a placebo or a combination of 1,200 mg of Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) and 120 mg of CoQ10 every day for 12 months. AGE was included in this study because it is known to support and strengthen your cardiovascular system by maintaining circulatory function and promoting overall heart health. The UCLA researchers found that the firefighters taking the AGE/CoQ10 supplement had significantly less CAC in their arteries and lower CRP levels than those taking the placebo. And that translated to a lower risk of future cardiovascular issues.7
But the benefits of CoQ10 aren’t just reserved for firefighters. Since both calcification and inflammation are hidden risk factors for heart attack and stroke, taking CoQ10 (especially when paired with Aged Garlic Extract) is a smart and simple way to protect your cardiovascular system.
Whether you get it through your diet, a supplement, or all of the above, this antioxidant can help your cells to process energy, can prevent free radical damage, and can improve certain cardiovascular symptoms too. If these sound like areas of health that you need to improve, be sure to ask about CoQ10 at your local health food store.