Co-enzyme Q10: fuel’s gold:

A great deal of research has been conducted since Dr Frederick Crane first isolated an enzyme from the heart tissue of a cow in 1957. In common parlance, it’s known as co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10), although its technical name is ubiquinone (from “ubiquitous”, meaning everywhere). This may suggest high levels are needed in all parts of your body or that it’s found plentifully throughout your system. Generally, both statements are true and that’s because CoQ10 plays some vital roles in your body’s functioning.

CoQ10 is an enzyme, not a vitamin, which means that unlike, vitamins and minerals, it’s not considered essential to life. However, its role in promoting the optimal functioning of various areas of your body is certainly not minor.

Most noticeable to you, perhaps, is CoQ10’s involvement in energy production, which occurs in a system known as the electron transport chain. CoQ10 aids in the movement of electrons through this system, resulting in the production of ATP: the individual energy units produced by your body every second of the day. These units of energy fuel every bodily process, from getting you out of bed in the morning to digesting your lunch to every breath you take. Since energy is produced in every cell in the body, CoQ10 is found in every cell.

Certain organs, including the heart, require greater energy to function, so have higher levels of CoQ10. For this reason, and due to CoQ10’s additional role as an antioxidant, your heart and blood vessels stand to gain a lot from this enzyme.

Antioxidant heart protection

As an antioxidant CoQ10 prevents free radical and therefore oxidative damage to your body. A study conducted in 2002 on Parkinson’s Disease illustrates the range of antioxidant benefits conveyed by CoQ10. It surmised that the antioxidant effects of high levels of the enzyme (1200mg/day) resulted in significant slowing of the onset of symptoms in those with Parkinson’s. Studies have also shown promising results due to its antioxidant effect on conditions from breast cancer to diabetes to male infertility.

Research recognises the important role of Vitamin E in the prevention of heart disease, and it has been found that vitamin E and CoQ10 have an important synergistic relationship. CoQ10 protects vitamin E from damage, thereby prolonging its effects on your cells. Perhaps this is one of the reasons CoQ10 is thought to be beneficial for a healthy heart, specifically for the prevention of atherosclerotic plaques on artery walls and improving recovery after heart damage.

Immunity and melanoma

It’s believed that your immune system also benefits from good levels of CoQ10 because of the enzyme’s ability to improve the body’s recognition and removal of harmful pathogens. Lower levels of CoQ10 have been measured in people suffering from periodontal disease and chronic fatigue syndrome.

The results of a recent five-year study on CoQ10 and melanomas generated excitement in the medical community. A significant decrease in recurrent rates of melanomas was detected in those taking CoQ10 compared with the placebo group.

Getting your CoQ10

CoQ10 is easily absorbed by your body and is found in a range of foods, primarily meats and some fish (sardines in particular), but only low levels exist in vegetables. Vegetarians and vegans need not fear, though, as the enzyme is produced in your body from a range of other nutrients.

Because of its effect on the heart and energy levels, clinical results suggest sports people can benefit from CoQ10 as a means of optimising performance. Use is also routinely recommended to those over 50 to boost energy and help protect the heart, as the body not only absorbs less CoQ10 but produces less as it ages.

The standard doses recommended in these circumstances are between 80mg and 150mg a day and, as a fat-soluble nutrient, it’s best taken with a meal containing some form of oil. When buying a supplement, keep in mind that CoQ10 is difficult and expensive to produce in a way that will prevent it degrading before it reaches you. You often get what you pay for, so stick to reliable brands.

For everyone else, eating a varied diet low in processed foods should ensure adequate levels of this important enzyme to give you your get-up-and-go in the morning.

Q10 at a glance

  • Required for energy production
  • A powerful antioxidant
  • Good for your heart
  • Boosts immunity
  • Works with vitamin E
  • Recommended for people over 50

References available on request. Rowena York is a naturopath, herbalist and nutritionist with a practice in Glebe, Sydney. She specialises in stress- and anxiety-related conditions as well as digestive disorders. T: 02 8755 1355, E:

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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