CoQ10: A Supplement Whose Time May Have Come

By Amy Campbell | April 6, 2009 5:03 pm

CoQ10, which stands for coenzyme Q10 (also called ubiquinone) might be something that you’ve never heard of. Then again, if you take a statin medicine for your cholesterol, you might just be taking this as a supplement. This week, we’ll take a closer look at this supplement that sometimes is hidden in the shadows but that has the potential for greatness.

What Is It, Anyway?
CoQ10 is a substance that is made in our bodies and is essential for good health. More specifically, you’ll find CoQ10 in a part of cell called the mitochondria, which, as I learned in biology, is the powerhouse of the cell. Without getting too heavy into biochemistry, CoQ10 is needed to make something called ATP which cells use for energy and which helps fuel a number of functions in the body, such as muscle contraction. For you history buffs, CoQ10 was “discovered” in beef heart muscle back in 1957 in Wisconsin. That same year, a professor in England isolated the same substance from rat liver.


CoQ10 is somewhat like a vitamin because it’s essential for health and is found in some foods. It’s actually made from an amino acid called tyrosine and requires several vitamins and minerals for its synthesis. In the 1970’s, it was found that a deficiency of CoQ10 was linked to heart disease. Production of CoQ10 in large quantities began that same decade to run clinical trials, many of which were conducted in the 1980’s.

What Does It Do?
History aside, CoQ10 plays an important role both in energy generation in the body and as an antioxidant[1]. If you recall, antioxidants help to mop up free radicals, harmful substances that can damage cell membranes and cell DNA. It’s thought that damage from free radicals can lead to a whole host of various problems, including heart disease, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes[2]. Here are some ways in which CoQ10 helps promote health and fight disease:

CoQ10 is thought to possibly help many other conditions, too, such as breast cancer, HIV, gum disease[5], and macular degeneration[6].

Where Is It Found?
CoQ10 is found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), vegetable oils, meat, and poultry. It’s also available as a supplement in soft gel, tablet, or spray form. Recommended doses vary depending on the condition, and range from 100 milligrams (mg) to up to 3,000 mg per day, given in divided doses. At this time, it’s not recommended for use in children. Side effects are minimal (nausea, diarrhea), but CoQ10 may interact with blood thinners and thyroid medication. As always, check with your health-care provider before taking this or any supplement.

  1. antioxidant:
  2. Type 2 diabetes:
  3. congestive heart failure (CHF):
  4. hypoglycemia:
  5. gum disease:
  6. macular degeneration:

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Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin.

Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.

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