What Is CoQ10?

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a compound found within the body and is essential for the optimum function of a cell.

CoQ10 is required for energy production; CoQ10 is an important component of aerobic cell respiration in which energy is generated from ATP (see also 'What Is ATP?'). CoQ10 is usually found within the mitochondria of a cell. The mitochondria are often referred to as the powerhouse of the cell.

CoQ10 is also an antioxidant and can neutralize free radical molecules which damage cells of the body. This antioxidant property is one of the many benefits of CoQ10.

Dr F Crane of Wisconsin, US, first discovered CoQ10 in 1957 [1]. Dr Crane isolated CoQ10 from the mitochondria in beef heart.

The heart, like a number of internal organs of the body, have high concentrations of CoQ10. These organs contain greater concentrations of Coq10 as their energy requirements are high.

In isolated form, CoQ10 is a white crystalline powder. However, commercially available CoQ10 supplements can take many forms including softgel capsules and tablets.

CoQ10 is also known as:

  • ubidecarenone
  • coenzyme Q
  • ubiquinone
  • vitamin Q

An alternative name for CoQ10 is ubiquinone. This name is derived from 'ubiquitous' which roughly translates to 'found everywhere'. Used in this context, 'ubiquitous' refers to CoQ10 being present within every cell of the body.

CoQ10 is an abbreviation of the name, Coenzyme Q10. The first part of the abbreviation Co, refers to its property as a coenzyme.

Properties Of CoQ10

A coenzyme like CoQ10 has two properties; it is an enzyme and a vitamin.

CoQ10 Is An Enzyme

An enzyme is a protein, which as a catalyst, speeds up certain biochemical reactions within the body.

CoQ10 Is A Vitamin

A vitamin is an organic compound required in minute quantities for body functions such as metabolism. As a vitamin, CoQ10 has a chemical structure which is similar to vitamin K. However, CoQ10 is sometimes viewed as a vitamin like substance but not an actual vitamin as it can be synthesized in the body.

CoQ10 Solubility

As a crystalline white powder, CoQ10 is insoluble in water. CoQ10 has limited solubility in lipids (fat like substances and oils). The limited solubility of CoQ10 affects the absorption of CoQ10 from dietary sources. For example, there is limited absorption of CoQ10 in the gastrointestinal tract [3].

CoQ10 Structural Formula

The structural formula of CoQ10 is: C59H90O4

Factors Which Can Affect CoQ10 Levels

Within the body, levels of CoQ10 can be affected by:

Aging – aging reduces the concentration of CoQ10 within the internal organs

UV/Sunlight Exposure – UV can cause a reduction in CoQ10 levels within the skin

Certain Medications
- Statins, a drug used to lower cholesterol can inhibit the production of CoQ10. Examples of statins which can lower CoQ10 include Mevacor & Lipitor.
- Beta blockers, a medication used to treat high blood pressure can also reduce levels of CoQ10.

Sources Of CoQ10

CoQ10 can be synthesized within the body and can also be taken from foods. Within the body, the internal organs, which have have higher energy demands, also have higher concentrations of CoQ10.

Examples of the body's internal organs with high concentrations of CoQ10 include the liver and heart.

Food Sources Of CoQ10

Which / What foods contain CoQ10? - CoQ10 is present in many foods in minute quantities.

Concentrated sources of CoQ10 include:

  • Organ meats – for example, liver, kidney & heart
  • Oily fish – for example, mackerel, sardines, salmon & tuna

In a healthy person, a balanced diet should provide sufficient levels of CoQ10 for normal body function. However, CoQ10 supplements may help people with certain health conditions associated with low levels of CoQ10.

The antioxidant properties of CoQ10 supplements may be of benefit to people when taken to improve overall wellness.