CoQ10 - Why you need this indispensable nutrient
As baby boomers enter their “golden years,” the forecast - for some – doesn’t look so bright. According to the National Institute of Aging, four out of five people over age 65 have at least one chronic degenerative illness such as cancer or heart disease. And, even among younger Americans, the incidence of metabolic conditions - including type 2 diabetes, obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease - is on the rise.
Can a common nutrient known as CoQ10 help to slow aging and promote health and well-being? While more studies are needed, some researchers seem to think so. And, it’s certainly true that CoQ10 plays a vital role in many life-sustaining body processes. Let’s take a closer look at this important compound, and what it can do.
Experts: CoQ10 acts like a high-performance “fuel additive” in the body
Classified as an essential coenzyme, CoQ10 is a vitamin-like nutrient found in every cell in the body. With powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, this protective compound neutralizes harmful free radicals and reduces the oxidative stress and chronic inflammation that can trigger chronic disease.
Scientists say that CoQ10 excels at supporting the function of the mitochondria, the tiny “power stations” of the cells that are responsible for energy production. In fact, some experts liken CoQ10 to a “fuel additive” that helps the mitochondria burn fuel more efficiently - in the process benefiting every cell and system in the body. In other words, CoQ10 can “rev up” energy levels, circulation and cell function.
Unfortunately, levels of this important nutrient fall with age. Making the situation even worse is the fact that health conditions that may affect older people (such as heart disease and high LDL cholesterol) are often treated with medications such as statin drugs – which deplete CoQ10 levels even further. (By the way, other factors that can cause your CoQ10 levels to “take a dive” include poor nutrition, vitamin deficiencies, mitochondrial diseases and physical and emotional stress).
CoQ10 supports the cardiovascular system
Heart-protective CoQ10 has been shown in some studies to improve the function of the endothelium (the all-important, but fragile, layer of cells lining of arteries). It can also support the heart by increasing pumping function, promoting elasticity in blood vessels and regulating blood pressure.
Studies have shown that CoQ10 supplementation can support heart function. In a controlled trial involving patients with moderate to severe heart failure and published in JACC Heart Failure, researchers found that participants who received 300 mg of CoQ10 a day (along with standard medical therapy) benefited greatly from CoQ10 supplementation.
Potential for anti-aging benefits
Researchers are hopeful about CoQ10’s possible effects on longevity. While falling CoQ10 levels seem to lead to mitochondrial dysfunction and speed up the aging processes, research has shown that increasing levels of CoQ10 extended life span in mice. (In fact, animal studies have suggested that CoQ10 may have the potential to increase life expectancy in humans by almost a decade!)
And, because CoQ10 reduces the accumulation of inflammatory amyloid-beta proteins in the brain, researchers say it may help ward off Alzheimer’s disease and support healthy cognition and memory into old age.
Increase CoQ10 intake with proper nutrition
The good news is that CoQ10 is found in many foods. However, some foods contain higher levels than others. Organ meats, such as liver and kidney, are particularly rich in CoQ10 - as are cold-water fatty fish such as sardines and wild-caught salmon. Free-range chicken and grass-fed beef are also good sources. (Vegans can obtain CoQ10 through cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, citrus fruits, berries, legumes, nuts and seeds).
However, CoQ10 supplementation may be necessary to maintain optimal levels, especially if you take statin drugs. (Pro tip: while supplementary CoQ10 in available in two forms, ubiquinol and ubiquinone, the ubiquinol variety is believed to be more easily absorbed by the body, as well as having more antioxidant capacity.)
Studies have used CoQ10 amounts of 300 mg to 1200 mg a day. Natural healers typically recommend 90 mg to 300 mg a day, but check first with your own integrative doctor before supplementing.
CoQ10 is also believed to help prevent head and neck tension, reduce anxious thoughts and feeling, support lung function, promote healthy blood sugar levels, increase fat-burning and enhance exercise performance.
Clearly, this versatile natural compound can provide a wealth of health benefits. It is likely that CoQ10’s full potential to support wellness has yet to be fully explored.
Sources for this article include: