Symptoms like fatigue, stress and lack of energy are commonplace in many people’s lives. Blame it on a fast-paced life, unhealthy diet or chronic stress, but feeling rundown and exhausted on a daily basis is a real health issue faced by most of us today. What can you do to boost your energy levels?
Well, we are here to discuss how increasing your intake of CoQ10 may give you a much-needed energy boost to be productive and remain overall healthy.
Of course, a nutritional deficiency such as low vitamin D, magnesium or calcium levels could be why you are experiencing fatigue. Or it could even be a thyroid disorder, fibromyalgia, heart failure or some other chronic condition. But if you are sure it is not the case, it may be time to check your CoQ10 levels. In fact, maintaining healthy levels of CoQ10 can even help with some of these mentioned chronic health problems that may also be sapping good deal of your energy.
What is Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)?
CoQ10 is a vitamin like substance that is present in nearly every cell of your body. It is a coenzyme, helper molecules that enables enzymes to efficiently do their job, which is to speed up bio-chemical reactions in the body. Out of the many roles it plays in the body, two roles seem to stand out.
- CoQ10 plays a very important role in making energy
- CoQ10 is a remarkable antioxidant that protects cells and their fragile structures from oxidative damage
Here, we are going to focus on how CoQ10 helps in producing energy and why its deficiency can mean impaired energy production, mitochondrial dysfunction and increased amount of oxidative damage suffered by your tissues and organs.
Needless to say, all these issues manifest not only into poor energy levels and fatigue but also into other serious chronic problems that can affect the quality of your life in a number of ways.
We will also discuss factors that reduce your CoQ10 levels and what you can do to improve your CoQ10 status. But first, let’s discuss the role of this ‘ubiquitous’ coenzyme in energy production.
Role of Coq10 in energy production
Your tissues and organs are made of cells that are always busy growing, duplicating, repairing or removing waste or toxins. In a nutshell, your cells need a lot of energy everyday to carry out these tasks so that your tissues and organs remain well-functioning and healthy. But where does this energy come from?
Well, your cells make this energy on their own with the help of mitochondria – which are small double membrane structures present inside every cell. Mitochondria are also referred to as the powerhouse of the cells for this reason. While all your organs contain a lot of mitochondria, organs that need more energy have a larger number of these tiny organelles in their cells – to help them make the amount of energy they need. Your heart, muscles, liver and kidneys are extremely busy organs and therefore contain substantially more mitochondria than other organs.
In fact, there is something unique about these mitochondria. They can rapidly divide and grow in numbers if the energy demand of the cells increases. This helps in powering up the cells with high amounts of energy as and when required. For example, a muscle that is exercised repeatedly will trigger the increased production of mitochondria to meet growing energy demand. So, how does CoQ10 fit into this scenario? Let’s start with the basics and gradually move to the elaborate process through which the body makes energy.
You eat food that comprises of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Now, your body needs to convert the energy from these nutrients into a form that can be eventually used by cells.
It begins when mitochondria break-down these nutrients with the help of oxygen. This entire process comprises of an elaborate, organized but extremely complex series of reactions that ultimately lead to the production of ATP molecules – currencies of energy that your cells can use.
It sure is a complicated process but let’s try to keep it short. Oxidation of fatty acids and carbohydrates that takes place within the mitochondria releases electrons, which must be carried to electron acceptors. The energy produced during this transportation of electrons across the mitochondrial membrane is finally used to produce ATP molecules.
Your body needs all kinds of nutrients that participate in this process. The ‘B’ family of vitamins, L-carnitine, vitamin K and magnesium are some major ingredients that are involved in energy synthesis. And CoQ10 is a very critical part of this team. In fact, no other molecule can replace Coq10 in its one-of-a-kind role in this process. CoQ10 accepts electrons generated during oxidation of glucose and fatty acid and passes it on to electron acceptors in the electron transport chain. The reactions of this transport chain are carried out with the help of many enzymes and coenzymes.
Severe CoQ10 deficiency obviously means your cells won’t be able to produce sufficient amounts of energy. Since CoQ10 also works as an antioxidant, low levels would mean low energy at a cellular level and increased oxidative damage and inflammation. Most chronic diseases stem from these factors.
CoQ10 and mitochondrial health
Clearly, healthy mitochondria equal healthy energy production. But specifically, what does CoQ10 mean for the health of your mitochondria?
What happens is that the process of energy synthesis that takes place within the mitochondria also results in the production of free radicals. These are molecules that have unpaired electrons, hence unstable and always in search of extra electrons to allow them to become steady. There are many other processes, both internal and external, that release free radicals into your system. Immune reactions, poor diet, infections, illness, acute stress, use of drugs and antibiotics, smoking, drinking and chronic exposure to toxins are some factors that increase the production of free radicals.
Free radicals cause damage to cells and cellular structures, that include cell membranes, proteins, enzymes, DNA and of course mitochondria. By stealing electrons from these structures, free radicals cause oxidative damage or oxidative stress – resulting in impaired function of organs, chronic inflammation, premature ageing and the development of chronic ailments in the form of arthritis, fibromyalgia, heart disease, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cancer. Oxidative damage can also cause infertility in both men and women.
Coming back to the mitochondria, these tiny fragile systems are exceptionally prone to this damage as they are at the epicentre of the energy production process that releases free radicals. And if you already have low levels of CoQ10 and other nutrients, energy synthesis takes a hit. This causes even more generation of free radicals, which ruin the health of mitochondria further.
We have come to know CoQ10 as an indispensable agent in making cellular energy. However, Coq10 is also an antioxidant as it can donate electrons to free radicals. Therefore, its role in fighting free radicals, thus reducing oxidative damage to cells and their mitochondria, is equally important.
What Causes Low Levels of CoQ10 in Our Body?
Your cells make their own CoQ10 but by the time you reach your 20’s your levels begin to wane. And if you don’t include enough CoQ10-rich foods in your diet, you are likely to become CoQ10 deficiency by your late 40’s. Organ meat and fish are some good sources of CoQ10. Besides age, many other factors increase your risk of becoming deficient in this important antioxidant:
- Lack of healthy diet without many CoQ10 rich foods
- Nutritional deficiencies; for example, deficiency in B vitamins and trace minerals that are required for the internal synthesis of CoQ10 by the cells
- Conditions where your body needs more CoQ10 to limit the oxidative damage and resulting inflammation, thus depleting the levels further. Systemic inflammation, persistent infections and disease, long-term exposure to environmental toxins, stress and prolonged use of beta-blockers, antibiotics and statins are a few situations when your body demands additional antioxidant support and rapidly uses the existing resources such as CoQ10, glutathione and other antioxidants.
- Use of anti-depressants is also known to lower your CoQ10 levels.
Exercise performance and fatigue: CoQ10 has been found to enhance exercise performance and relieve fatigue, while improving energy levels. This is due to its direct role in energy synthesis.
Migraine: CoQ10 has been found to be useful in migraines. While the exact cause of migraine is not yet clear, there is evidence that poorly functioning mitochondria and impaired energy production in the brain may be responsible. Studies show that people who experience frequent migraines often have low levels of CoQ10 in their body. With its ability to maintain mitochondrial functions and make energy, taking CoQ10 supplement could be useful in this health problem. The Canadian Headache Society has listed Coq10 as one of the 11 most effective substances to prevent migraines.
Infertility: The process of egg maturation and embryo development, which involves many cell divisions, requires substantial amounts of energy. Sperm also need energy to travel and reach eggs for fertilization. With age, there is reduced production of energy within the mitochondria of the egg cells. There is also increased oxidative damage. Low cellular energy, accompanied by oxidative damage, reduce the quality of eggs in women - especially older women. We know that cells, such as brain cells or muscle cells, which require considerable energy also contain a large number of mitochondria. But a human egg, the largest cells in the body, contains 10-100 times more mitochondria than any other energy-demanding cells. This is to boost egg cells to do the job.
For people taking statins: People with high cholesterol levels are often prescribed statins. These drugs lower cholesterol levels by blocking the function of an enzyme involved in the production of cholesterol in the liver. However, this enzyme is also responsible for the production of many other important molecules in the body. CoQ10 is one of these. Now, as a critical component in ATP synthesis, impaired production of CoQ10 can be seen as poor muscle function, in both the skeletal muscles, heart muscles and blood vessels. When you have been taking statins for a long time, this can result in muscle fatigue, muscle pain and even joint pain. Taking CoQ10 supplements can help improve these symptoms.
CoQ10 has been found useful in:
- Improving symptoms in people with congestive heart failure, where energy-starved heart muscle is not able to pump enough blood to the organs. 
- Reducing the risk of unexpected hospitalization or urgent transplantation in people with heart failure.
- Improving endothelial function type 2 diabetic patients taking statins
- Pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes  
- Periodontal (gum) disease 
CoQ10 keeps you healthy on so many levels. It is, therefore, important that you maintain healthy levels through foods and supplements. We recommend taking a liposomal CoQ10 supplement along with foods that are high in CoQ10 content. Liposomal CoQ10 supplements are better as they improve the amount of CoQ10 that reaches your cells.
Traditional supplements are disintegrated in the harsh, unfavorable environment of the gastrointestinal tract. Much of the nutrient is wasted during digestion, and only a small amount is able to reach your tissues.
But liposomal technology uses small bubbles called liposomes, which are then filled with the desired nutrient. Liposomes are truly remarkable structures that safety transports the enclosed nutrient, CoQ10 in this case, to its destination – increasing its bio-availability and absorption.
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- Mohammadi et al. The effect of coenzyme Q10 supplementation on metabolic status of type 2 diabetic patients. Gastroenterol Dietol. 2013
- Raygan et al. The effects of coenzyme Q10 administration on glucose homeostasis parameters, lipid profiles, biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in patients with metabolic syndrome. European Journal of Nutrition. 2015
- S Prakash et al. Role of coenzyme Q(10) as an antioxidant and bioenergizer in periodontal diseases. Indian J Pharmacol. 2010
- A Sharma et al. Coenzyme Q10 and Heart Failure. A State-of-the-Art Review. Circulation. Heart Failure. 2016.