CoQ10 is an important player in the generation of energy within the cells, and it is a co-enzyme found in virtually every cell of the body. Co-enzymes are non-protein compounds that support enzymes in facilitating important biochemical processes in the body. It is also known as ubiquinone, stemming from the fact that this miracle nutrient is ubiquitous – present everywhere in the body. However, it is found in particularly high concentrations in the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas and immune system owing to their high energy requirements.
Our body is capable of producing its own supply of CoQ10, with some also provided by the food we eat. CoQ10 is naturally present in a wide variety of foods such as fresh sardines, beef, mackerel and in the organ meats like heart, liver, and kidney. Plant based foods such as spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, lentils, peanuts, soybeans, wheat germ and azuki beans are also a good source of Coq10. However, to a large extent, overcooking and food processing diminishes the amount of CoQ10 gained from artificial means.
As we age, our body produces less CoQ10. Certain other health conditions also act as potential risk factors for the decline in CoQ10 levels such as cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, HIV/AIDS, excessive stress at the mental, physical and biological level, genetic disorders, muscular dystrophies and Parkinson's disease. Statin drugs significantly deplete the levels of this important co-enzyme from the body.
Main Functions of CoQ10
Most health benefits offered by CoQ10 stem from its critical role in helping mitochondria to produce energy, and its antioxidant superpowers.
CoQ10 and its role in energy production
CoQ10 is part of our body’s energy-producing team, playing an extremely critical role in the energy generation process, along with other nutrients including B Family Vitamins, magnesium, lipoic acid, and acetyl-l-carnitine to name a few. CoQ10 acts as an essential cofactor in the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP in the mitochondria, also known as the powerhouse of the cells. ATP is the energy currency or the fuel that our body uses to carry out each and every biological function required for cellular growth, repair, maintenance and survival.
CoQ10 and its role as an anti-oxidant
CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant. It defends the body from free radicals that cause oxidative stress to DNA, lipids, proteins and cell membranes. Damage to these fragile biological structures impacts the structure and functions of tissues and organs leading to premature ageing and the development of many chronic degenerative diseases. In fact, the co-enzyme’s ability to scavenge free radicals and thus preventing membrane oxidation and lipid peroxidation plays an integral role in supporting cardiovascular health. And it has gained immense popularity as a powerful antiaging supplement because of its role in energy production and providing antioxidant defences.
CoQ10 also helps to recycle and recharge other important antioxidants like vitamin E and vitamin C. These vitamins become weak radicals themselves after neutralizing free radicals and CoQ10 helps them to return to their active forms, keeping them working for the body as a part of the antioxidant arsenal.
CoQ10 and its role in cardiovascular health
Not bigger than a clenched fist, your heart is one of the most hard working organs in the body, beating continuously and tirelessly. This amount of hard work requires a steady supply of energy. CoQ10, as the key component in the energy production, essentially supports the bioenergetics involved in the heart, thus empowering the heart muscle to pump blood in an efficient manner, without tiring. In addition, CoQ10 mops up the torrent of damaging free radicals formed as the by-products of energy production. The anti-oxidant property further supports cardiovascular health by preventing LDL oxidation, an important step in the progression of atherosclerosis.
It is no wonder CoQ10 exists in higher concentrations in the myocardium (the heart’s muscle) than other tissues. Decreased levels of myocardial CoQ10 impairs the pumping capacity of the heart – leading to the onset and progression of congestive heart failure as well as making the tissues more vulnerable to free radical damage.
The relationship between CoQ10 levels and heart failure has been the subject of innumerable clinical studies for decades. Studies have related low myocardial CoQ10 levels with increased severity of heart failure. And the decline in CoQ10 status is also believed to be worsened by parallel treatment with statin drugs and β-blockers. A recent 2014 study showed that long-term CoQ10 treatment improves heart failure symptoms, and reduces major adverse cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality .
A 2015 review published in Open Heart further concluded “in aggregate, evidence suggests that supplemental CoQ10 may be a useful option for effective management of heart failure, with the advantage of excellent clinical tolerance—reflecting its status as an essential physiological cofactor.” 
CoQ10 also improves endothelial functions and has a favourable effect in stabilizing blood pressure. It has been shown to be particularly beneficial in lowering blood pressure in diabetic patients. In addition, CoQ10 reduces the damage that accompanies a heart attack and also protects the heart during bypass surgery, heart transplantation and other cardiac surgeries. Benefits in both these areas stem from the coenzyme’s ability to reduce the impact of ischemia-reperfusion injury. This is achieved by strengthening the energy supplying mechanism to the heart muscle and also by extending anti-oxidant support.
Summing up, CoQ10 helps the cardiovascular system by its important role in energy production, anti-oxidant properties and effect on endothelial functions, which in turn improves circulatory health. Here is a short list of what it can do:
- Improves heart failure symptoms
- Reduces the occurrence of arrhythmias
- Maintains healthy blood pressure
- Lowers cholesterol levels and prevents atherosclerosis
- Improves endothelial functions and promotes arterial health
- Reduces damage caused by heart attack
- Protects the heart during cardiac surgeries
- Improve exercise capacity after myocardial infarction
Statin drugs and CoQ10 Status
If you are on statin drugs, prescribed to lower cholesterol levels, it is important to supplement with CoQ10. Besides interfering in the production of cholesterol in the body, statin drugs also block the endogenous production of CoQ10. Considering its role in maintaining healthy muscle and cardiovascular functions, the declining levels of CoQ10 in people on statin drugs may contribute to fatigue, aching joints and muscle weakness. Low levels can even trigger atherosclerosis and heart failure . A 2014 study showed that “coenzyme Q10 supplementation (50 mg twice daily) effectively reduced statin-related mild-to-moderate muscular symptoms.” 
Another potentially dangerous, though relatively less common side effect of a decline in CoQ10 due to statins is a condition called rhabdomyolysis. This happens when weak, damaged muscle cells disintegrate and release a protein called myoglobin in the bloodstream that can damage the kidneys. Rhabdomyolysis can be life-threatening if not treated in time.
Other important health benefits offered by CoQ10
- Boosts energy levels
- Delays premature aging; supports healthy aging
- Improves immune system functions
- Helps in relieving fatigue and muscle weakness
- Stabilizes blood sugar levels
- Protects organs from toxic chemotherapy drugs
- Treats gum disease
- Prevents migraines
- Increases sperm motility and improves male fertility
- Helps in Parkinson’s disease treatment and management
- Mortensen SA et al. The effect of coenzyme Q10 on morbidity and mortality in chronic heart failure: results from Q-SYMBIO: a randomized double-blind trial. JACC Heart Failure. 2014
- James J DiNicolantonio, Jaikrit Bhutani, Mark F McCarty and James H O'Keefe. Coenzyme Q10 for the treatment of heart failure: a review of the literature. Open Heart 2015.
- Okuyama et al. Statins stimulate atherosclerosis and heart failure: pharmacological mechanisms. Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology 2015
- Skarlovnik et al. Coenzyme Q10 supplementation decreases statin-related mild-to-moderate muscle symptoms: a randomized clinical study. Med Sci Monit. 2014