Ageing can be best described as something that occurs as a consequence of cellular processes that cause gradual loss of organ function with the passage of time. This process also increases the risk of many age-associated diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, cataracts, dementia and neurological disorders.
While ageing is inevitable, there are various factors that can significantly accelerate the process of aging at the cellular level, including decline in cellular energy, mitochondrial dysfunction and excessive oxidative stress caused by free radicals. In this blog, we discuss how Coenzyme Q10 - also known as CoQ10 - fights these risks factors and exerts its anti-ageing effects on the cells.
What is CoQ10?
CoQ10 is a fat soluble, vitamin like substance that is produced naturally by the body. Found in every cell and tissue, the anti-ageing effects of CoQ10 are derived from two very important roles that it plays:
- CoQ10 plays a critical role in the energy production process that takes place in the mitochondria
- CoQ10 works as an antioxidant that protects cell membranes and lipids from oxidative stress
Role of CoQ10 in healthy ageing
Coenzyme Q10 needed for cellular energy production
Every cell in the body requires a constant supply of energy for proper functioning – for growth, reproduction, repair, waste removal and overall maintenance. Most of the energy that your cells need is made within the mitochondria; tiny double-membrane organelles present in every cell of the body. This is why mitochondria are also called the powerhouse or energy factories of the cells.
Mitochondria burn nutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates) in the presence of oxygen to make ATP, the fundamental unit of energy that the cells require to carry out their functions. This process comprises of a complex series of biochemical reactions, where CoQ10 plays quite a spectacular role. More specifically, CoQ10 is an indispensable component in the mitochondrial electron transport chain (ETC), where it is instrumental in transporting electrons from one enzyme complex to another within the inner membrane of the mitochondria. The energy generated during this handover of electrons is eventually utilized to make ATP molecules.
Many other nutrients are also involved in creating energy for the cells, such as magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin K and L-carnitine. But no other substance can substitute for CoQ10’s unique role in the electron transport chain. In a nutshell, your body cannot efficiently produce energy if it is low on CQ10. Inefficient production of energy is detrimental to cellular as well as mitochondrial health.
CoQ10 improves mitochondrial functions
Healthy levels of CoQ10 equate to healthy mitochondrial functions and enhanced energy production for cellular requirements. Most of the diseases including age-related chronic conditions involve mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress.
Low energy deteriorates cellular and mitochondrial functions, leading to sub-optimal performance of organs. Mitochondria are most abundant in organs that need the most energy resource to function properly, such as brain, liver, kidneys and muscles, including the heart. The same tissues and organs also contain the highest concentration of CoQ10. That is why the adverse effects of low CoQ10 are most noticeable in the functioning of these organs in the form of poor heart health, weakened muscles and reduced brain functions.
While CoQ10 is very effective in maintaining mitochondrial fitness and improving energy turnover, its role in combating oxidative stress in cellular and mitochondrial membranes is no less extraordinary.
CoQ10 in oxidative stress
The process of energy production in the mitochondria also leads to the formation of free radicals, highly unstable molecules with unpaired electrons. Free radicals are also produced by a variety of external factors – including unhealthy diet, chronic infections, acute stress, antibiotics, drugs, smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol and exposure to environmental toxins (pesticides, chemicals and heavy metals).
These free radicals attack cellular structures, such as proteins, lipids, cellular DNA and mitochondrial DNA, in their attempt to gain electrons and become stable. This results in oxidative stress, leading to premature cellular ageing and impaired functioning of cells, tissues and organs. If not checked in time, oxidative stress causes chronic inflammation and early development of age-related diseases.
Mitochondria are especially vulnerable to oxidative stress. In addition, impaired and inefficient energy production due to low CoQ10 levels leads to an increased formation of free radicals, burdening the fragile mitochondria with even more oxidative damage.
Coq10 is a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant and protects lipids, cell membranes, intracellular proteins, DNA and mitochondria from the oxidative damage. In the absence of sufficient CoQ10, your body has less resources to fight free radicals and oxidative stress, which leads to mitochondrial dysfunction and reduced energy production.
Low CoQ10 levels have another consequence on your body’s antioxidant capacity. CoQ10, along with selenium, plays a very important role in the regeneration of vitamin E – another powerful fat-soluble antioxidant that protects cell membranes from oxidation by free radicals. In this way, CoQ10 deficiency also causes vitamin E levels to decline. This makes your cells and mitochondria even more vulnerable to free radicals and damage.
Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are associated with all kinds of age-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Studies show that Coq10 supplementation can reduce pro-inflammatory chemicals and inflammatory markers in the elderly with low levels of coenzyme in their body .
Ageing is also associated with the loss of skeletal muscle mass and function. Two independent cohort studies found a direct link between CoQ10 levels in the body and muscle strength. 
A 2018 review of current knowledge on CoQ10 and clinical trials based on CoQ10 supplementation concluded that, “It seems clear that supplementation with CoQ10 improves mitochondrial function and confers antioxidant protection for organs and tissues affected by various pathophysiological conditions. The ability of CoQ10 to protect against the release of proinflammatory markers provides an attractive anti-inflammatory therapeutic for the treatment of some human diseases and in aging” 
What Causes Low Levels of CoQ10 in Our Body?
Your body makes its own CoQ10 but this production declines with age. The levels begin to decline when you reach your 20’s and it is highly likely you are CoQ10 deficient by the late 40’s, especially if your diet is lacking in foods such as organ meat (heart, liver and kidney) and fish (sardines, rainbow trout and mackerel). Peanuts, broccoli, oranges and cauliflower are also a rich source of dietary CoQ10. The average intake of CoQ10 through diet is not nearly enough to maintain the levels your body needs to function at its best.
Other factors that deplete CoQ10 in the body are:
- Deficiency in B vitamins and trace minerals
- Chronic inflammation, infections and disease
- Exposure to environmental toxins
- High level of stress
- Diet low in Omega 3 fatty acids
- Long-term and excessive use of certain medications such as beta-blockers, antidepressants, antibiotics and statins.
Statins are usually prescribed to people with high cholesterol, considered a major risk factor for atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke. While there is a lot of controversy surrounding the role of cholesterol in the development of heart disease, it is certain that these cholesterol-lowering drugs also block the endogenous production of CoQ10.
Statins work by inhibiting the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, which helps make cholesterol in the liver through a series of complex biochemical reactions. This pathway is called the mevalonate pathway. But this enzyme is also responsible for other reactions that occur along the same pathway, leading to the production of many other important molecules, such as CoQ10, vitamin D, stress hormones, sex hormones, bile acids, heme group of the ‘hemoglobin’ and lesser known dolichols (a class of compounds that make cell membranes healthy and are responsible for immune health, brain health, cellular communication and correcting errors in mitochondrial DNA).
Needless to say, statins also end up lowering the production of these useful molecules. Since CoQ10 is required for healthy muscles and healthy heart functions, its shortage in the body can lead to fatigue, muscle pain and weakness.
A 2013 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that muscle pain and muscle weakness in statin users could be due to the “inhibitory effect on coenzyme Q10 synthesis, selenoprotein synthesis and the mitochondrial respiratory chain.” It further expounded that “several reports have recognized an increased incidence of tendinopathies in relationship to statin use. Hence, it is conceivable that these effects may result in increased incidence of soft-tissue–related injuries, such as dislocation, sprain, and strain.” 
Another study found that “coenzyme Q10 supplementation (50 mg twice daily) effectively reduced statin-related mild-to-moderate muscular symptoms.” .
CoQ10 is probably the most important player when it comes to heart health. Your heart muscle has the highest concentration of CoQ10. Low CoQ10 levels mean less energy for the heart muscle and less antioxidant support to prevent the oxidation of low density lipoproteins (LDL), believed to be the underlying cause of atherosclerosis or plaque formation in the arteries.
There are well documented studies that suggest a positive role of CoQ10 supplementation in:
- Improving the symptoms of chronic heart failure symptoms and lowering the risk of hospitalization and death from heart disease. 
- Improving endothelial functions by reducing oxidative stress and improving mitochondrial functions  
- Reducing muscle damage during a heart attack
- Improving the risk and symptoms of angina
- Pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes   
- Male and female infertility  
- Migraines  
- Periodontal (gum) disease 
CoQ10 deficiency leads to less availability of energy for the cells, poor mitochondrial function and oxidative stress – leading to accelerated aging and early onset of age-related disease. Fortunately, you can maintain healthy levels and prevent decline in cellular health with the help of a high quality liposomal CoQ10 supplement, that can significantly improve its availability and absorption.
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