You already know that organs are unique bodily structures, like your heart and lungs, that have specific and indispensable functions.
But you may not have heard of organelles, a word that means “little organs.” Organelles are the organs of the cell—the microscopic structures that control cellular function, like the cell wall and the DNA-
containing nucleus. One key organelle is the mitochondria, which numbers about 200 to 5,000 per cell.
Mitochondria are essential to cellular life because they produce energy. Most of that energy is generated in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is to a cell what fuel is to a car.
ATP is manufactured in a molecular assembly line called the “electron transport chain”—and that process depends on the antioxidant coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Without CoQ10, your cells would run out of gas—and you’d run out of life. As a powerful antioxidant, CoQ10 protects cell membranes from oxidation, the internal rust that is a primary cause of aging and many chronic diseases. It also helps other antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, do their jobs. It cools chronic inflammation, another cause of chronic disease, and it helps regulate genes that control cellular growth and maintenance.
Given its importance to human health, it’s no surprise that the body produces its own supply of CoQ10. Small amounts are also found in meat, chicken, and fish, but not enough to boost levels in the body. That’s a potential problem because the cellular production of CoQ10 declines with age—an average 10 percent decrease every 10 years. In fact, many age-related diseases—including heart disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease—could benefit from supplementation with CoQ10, according to scientific studies.
Here’s what you need to know to use CoQ10 to protect and improve your health.
High blood pressure
In one study, 10 weeks of treatment with CoQ10 (50 milligrams [mg], twice a day) decreased systolic blood pressure from 164.5 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) to 146.7 mmHg, and diastolic blood pressure from
98.1 mmHg to 86.1 mmHg.
In a small study by Japanese researchers, which was published in the American Journal of Cardiology, people with angina took either 150 mg of CoQ10 or a placebo for four weeks. Those taking the antioxidant had significantly increased exercise tolerance (time before angina pain) on a treadmill, a 53 percent reduction in angina episodes, and a 54 percent reduction in the number of nitroglycerin tablets needed to control pain.
Diabetes is a disease of chronically high blood sugar, affecting more than 30 million Americans. Another 80 million have prediabetes. High blood sugar increases the risk of heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, and Alzheimer’s disease.
In a study published in the journal Biofactors, four months of daily treatment with 200 mg of CoQ10 lowered A1C (a measurement of long-term blood sugar levels) from 7.1 to 6.8—a significant drop. The researchers also found that CoQ10 helped control prediabetes.
In animal research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, CoQ10 completely reversed nerve pain in diabetic rats. The researchers suggested that people diagnosed with diabetes might want to immediately start supplementation with CoQ10 to prevent peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain in the hands, legs, and feet), which usually occurs in the first 10 years after diagnosis.
In this disease, dopamine-producing cells of the brain shut down, causing muscular difficulties such as tremor, stiffness, slowed movement, and postural problems. In a meta-analysis
of data from several studies, researchers found that taking high, therapeutic doses of CoQ10 (1,200 mg daily) improved the ability to walk normally and maintain a normal posture.
This type of debilitating headache afflicts one in six Americans. In a study published in the journal
Neurology, CoQ10 was three times more effective than a placebo in reducing the frequency of attacks, the average number of days people suffered with a migraine, and nausea (a common symptom).
In another study, people who took 150 to 200 mg of CoQ10 daily had a decrease in the average number of migraine attacks per month from 4.8 to 2.8.
Afflicting nearly 10 million Americans, this disease causes widespread pain, tenderness, and sensitivity to touch. Most people with the illness—which strikes many more women than men—also have sleep problems and daytime fatigue. Research shows that people with fibromyalgia have low levels of CoQ10. In a small study, people with fibromyalgia who took 300 mg of CoQ10 daily had a significant reduction in pain.
“I’m an expert in this disease, so I’d like to note that the condition is very treatable,” Dr. Tietelbaum told Bottom Line Health. “In fact, my research team and I have completed eight studies on effective treatments and treatment protocols. The problem in fibromyalgia is not lack of effective treatment—it’s a lack of effective physician education.”
These are genetic disorders caused by the failure of the mitochondria to produce enough cellular energy. They afflict one in 5,000 Americans and can affect almost any part of the body, including the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, nerves, muscles, eyes, or ears.
In a study published in the journal Muscle and Nerve, researchers gave 30 patients with a mitochondrial disorder 1,200 mg of CoQ10 daily for 60 days. The treatment helped regulate biochemical imbalances in muscles and the brain.
Oxidative damage of sperm cells is a likely cause for male infertility, and treatment with CoQ10 is a possible way to stop and reverse the damage. In a review of CoQ10 and male infertility in the journal Antioxidants, researchers found that supplementing with CoQ10 can improve the number of sperm (density), sperm movement (motility), the structural integrity of sperm (morphology), and increase the pregnancy rate. With sperm counts rapidly dropping worldwide, CoQ10 may be a key ingredient in a future “energy cocktail” that could save the human race.
CoQ10 comes in several forms: ubiquinol, ubiquinone, and semiquinone. By itself, a good form for supplementation is ubiquinol, which is absorbed three to four times better than ubiquinone.
For prevention and treatment,
Dr. Tietelbaum typically recommends taking 200 mg daily with a meal that has some fat or oil in it to maximize absorption. For people with high blood pressure, heart problems, or diabetes (which raises the risk of cardiovascular disease), he usually recommends 400 mg daily for six weeks, and then 200 mg daily.
But new advances have changed his approach. A natural substance called gamma-cyclodextrin can increase the absorption of CoQ10 (and other nutrients) about eightfold. A CoQ10 supplement of 100 mg that includes gamma-cyclodextrin supplies the equivalent of 800 mg, with no worries about taking it with food for increased absorption.