Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is a compound that our body produces naturally and is one of the most important antioxidants that protect our brain and heart (1).
It’s an essential component of the energy-producing chain that takes place in the mitochondria, from where our cells get all of the energy they require (2, 3).
Since all cellular functions depend on an adequate supply of energy, CoQ10 is essential for the health of all our tissues and organs.
All our cells are capable of producing this molecule, however, this is a highly regulated process, and as we age, our bodies produce less and less of this much-needed molecule (4).
A study conducted in 2019, found evidence that with proper CoQ10 supplementation the onset of some aging-related diseases, such as dementia, neurodegenerative disorders, arthritis, age-related hearing loss, and some types of cancer, could be delayed (5).
Additionally, low levels of coenzyme Q10 are related to other diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, but more studies have yet to confirm whether these conditions are the cause of the low levels, or is it the other way around, that some specific genetic conditions may result in low levels, leading to the increased predisposition for such diseases (6).
But the good news? We can get CoQ10 from both food and supplements.
Even due the amount of CoQ10 found in foods is much lower than the one in supplements, some of the best foods to include are (7):
- Organ meats, like heart, liver, and kidney, have the highest content of this molecule.
- Fatty fish, like trout, salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are in second place.
- Meats, such as reindeer, beef, pork, and chicken.
- Some vegetable oils, like soybean and canola oil
- Soybeans and soybean products, like tofu, milk, and soy yogurt.
- Some nuts and seeds, like peanuts, sesame seeds, and pistachios.
Below we have listed the 8 main health benefits of CoQ10 for our health.
1. It can protect our brain
CoQ10 supplementation could have a potential therapeutic role in age-related neurological disorders, as it can prevent or delay oxidative damage in our neurons (8).
As we age, the mitochondria lose functionality, in particular the ones found in our brain cells.
This can lead to cell death resulting in the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (9).
CoQ10, being a potent antioxidant and having an essential role in energy production within the mitochondria, can protect our neurons, and thus, protect our brain.
2. It might help with migraines
According to the American Academy of Neurology, CoQ10 supplements may be effective in preventing migraines (10).
A systematic review of 6 studies conducted in 2019 found that CoQ10 seems to have beneficial effects in reducing the duration and frequency of migraine attacks (11).
The mechanism by which it works is still unclear, but it might be related to the role of this molecule in mitochondrial health, given that mitochondrial dysfunction could lead to an excess of free radicals, causing inflammation, often associated with migraines (12, 13).
3. It can take care of our heart
Worldwide, one of the leading causes of death is cardiovascular disease, and oxidative stress is identified as an essential player in the onset of such diseases (14).
Since CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant, supplementation with this compound could be useful in the treatment of various cardiac conditions.
Heart failure is mostly the result of other heart diseases, which increase oxidative damage and inflammation of the veins and arteries, and CoQ10 may be a key factor in the survival of older adults suffering from this condition (15).
In these cases, treatment with CoQ10 could not only improve symptoms but also reduce the risk of dying from other associated heart problems, like hypertension, ischemic heart disease, myocardial infarction, and arrhythmias (16, 17, 18).
4. It may reduce statins side effects
Statins are a drug used to lower blood cholesterol levels and are mostly prescribed to people suffering from cardiovascular disease, as they can also be effective in reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes (19).
They are a potent and necessary medication in these cases, but some people may experience side effects, including muscle pain, weakness, or cramps.
Some research suggests that CoQ10 may help alleviate these side symptoms caused by statins.
A 2018 study of 12 clinical trials with a total of 575 patients found that patients who received CoQ10 supplementation reduced both pain and muscle weakness when compared with the placebo group (20).
However, according to a systematic review of clinical trials conducted in 2020 regarding CoQ10 supplementation, more research is needed to conclude what effects CoQ10 has on reducing the side effects of statins (21).
5. It can be helpful for better aging
Oxidative stress, marked by an increase in the production of reactive oxygen species, is an inevitable part of the aging process and can damage several molecules, especially DNA and proteins (5).
Research suggests that several age-related diseases can greatly benefit from an adequate supplementation of CoQ10, as it is a safe supplement with a high potential to reduce biomarkers of oxidative stress (22).
6. It might potentially help with diabetes
Given CoQ10’s potent antioxidant properties and its role in the reduction of oxidative stress, it may be useful in reducing insulin resistance in people with diabetes.
Insulin resistance is a hallmark of people with type 2 diabetes.
In these cases, the cells fail to properly sense insulin, the hormone responsible for allowing glucose to enter the cells. The consequence is a rise in blood sugar levels, and this excess sugar is responsible for the oxidative stress found in diabetes.
A 2018 systematic review of 13 studies found that CoQ10 supplementation could improve blood sugar and HDL cholesterol level regulation while reducing triglyceride levels in people with type 2 diabetes (23).
However, these results should be treated with caution because the analyzed studies were short-term and conducted with small populations, so more research is needed to effectively determine the potential benefits of CoQ10 in diabetes.
7. It can improve skin health
In case you didn’t know, our skin is the largest organ we have and is constantly exposed to various harmful agents that promote aging.
One of the main external agents that affect our skin’s health is exposure to UV rays, which, over time, can cause thinning of the skin’s layers, with a consequent reduction in skin hydration and protection against other aggressors (24).
Topical application of CoQ10 creams can reduce this damage by increasing energy production in skin cells, promoting antioxidant protection, and may even have an effect on reducing the risk of developing skin cancer (25, 26).
8. It can improve endurance
One study found that CoQ10 supplementation can boost endurance exercise performance in interval workouts (27). This makes sense given CoQ10’s critical role in the generation of cellular energy inside your muscles.
If your CoQ10 levels are deficient, boosting them with a CoQ10 supplement could boost your exercise capacity too.
CoQ10 side effects
CoQ10 is not known to have any significant side effects, even when the dosage is as much as three grams per day (28). This is true even for CoQ10 supplements taken for several months or years at a time.
Some people might experience tiredness, rashes, and sleeplessness, though these tend to be temporary, and in clinical research have not occurred at a higher rate in people taking CoQ10 compared to placebo.
The bulk of scientific research studies use doses of 150 to 200 milligrams of coenzyme Q10. A few studies use a dose of 100 mg per day, and a few likewise use doses over 200 mg. There does not seem to be any need for CoQ10 to be split up into smaller doses; most studies involve taking just one supplement tablet per day.
CoQ10 is a fat-soluble molecule, which means that its absorption is quite slow and often limited. To improve it, it is advisable to take supplements with food, especially those rich in fats (29, 30).
Research conducted by industry-sponsored scientists claims that adding a special proprietary black pepper extract to a CoQ10 supplement boosts absorption, and some of the supplements on the market include this “BioPerine” extract (31).
CoQ10 benefits FAQ
Q: How much is too much CoQ10?
A: CoQ10 is quite safe, and while most studies use moderate doses of 150 to 200 mg, CoQ10 has been studied at much higher doses.
One study using both healthy and unhealthy adults (the unhealthy adults had a genetic disorder called Huntington’s disease, which results in brain cell death) determined that doses of 1200 to 3600 mg per day were well-tolerated without any apparent ill effects, so the upper limit of CoQ10 supplementation, at least in the short term, is much higher than the dosage necessary to get the optimal benefits (32).
Q: Can you get CoQ10 from food?
A: As you might expect from the biological role of CoQ10, by far the best way to get in in food is in things like meat and fish, since these tissues (essentially, muscle) have a high CoQ10 content due to the need for them to produce cellular energy.
You can get CoQ10 from vegetable sources like broccoli and soybeans, but the amounts pale in comparison to what you can get from meat.
Meat tends to have five to seven times more CoQ10 than even the highest vegetable sources of CoQ10, which suggests that vegetarians and vegans may be at a substantially greater risk for CoQ10 deficiencies. Fortunately, CoQ10 in supplement form is not
Q: Should you take CoQ10 in the morning or at night?
A: Because the kinetics of how CoQ10 is absorbed and processed by your body, it does not matter what time of day you take CoQ10.
The CoQ10 molecule is quite large, and it’s not very water-soluble. Because of both of these reasons, it takes a long time to be fully absorbed by your body. After taking a single dose, levels of CoQ10 in your blood don’t peak until six hours later.
Moreover, CoQ10 is very long-lasting in your body. If you take a dosage of, say, 200 mg, it’s fully absorbed after six hours, but even after 33 hours, you still have 50% of the peak concentration of CoQ10 circulating in your body (33).
Thanks to this very long elimination time, the benefits of CoQ10 do not depend on whether you take it in the morning or at night.
Q: What is a good dosage for CoQ10?
A: CoQ10 is typically used in doses of 150 to 200 mg in scientific research. It’s safe to take far more than this, but it’s not clear whether there would be any additional benefit to take greater doses.
When dosing a supplement like CoQ10, you’re more likely to get good results when following clinical research protocols closely, so the best evidence suggests that 150 to 200 mg or so is a good dose to start with.
Related: Our top CoQ10 picks.
Coenzyme Q10 is a natural compound necessary for the production of energy in our cells and it is also a powerful antioxidant.
Several studies have shown that CoQ10 has many benefits for our overall health, from improving the health of our skin and helping us age better, to taking care of our heart and brain, as well as preventing migraines.
Supplementation with CoQ10 may be especially important in adults because, as we age, endogenous production of this coenzyme decreases significantly.