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Product Review: CoQ10 and Ubiquinol Supplements Review

Initial Posting: 12/16/16 Last Update:1/6/18CoQ10 and Ubiquinol Supplements Reviewed by

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  • What does it do? People often take CoQ10 to offset a decline in natural levels which occurs with the use of statin (cholesterol-lowering) medication. Some take it to feel more energized or for a variety of other purposes. The evidence supporting these uses remains preliminary, although it does benefit people with congestive heart failure (See What It Does). After being absorbed into the body, more than 90% of CoQ10 is converted to its active form, known as ubiquinol (CoQH2-10), which is also available as a supplement and appears to have greater bioavailability (i.e., it raises blood levels more). (See What It Is).
  • How much to take? CoQ10 and ubiquinol are typically taken at a dose of 50 to 200 mg per day, although higher doses have been used (See Dosage). Certain formulations have improved absorption (See Absorption and Bioavailability Enhancers)
  • Best choice? Among 42 CL Approved products, CL selected several as its Top Picks. One product was Not Approved, as it contained less than its listed amount of CoQ10 (See What CL Found).
  • How to take it? Gastrointestinal side-effects may occur but can be minimized by breaking up the dose over the day, although it may interfere with sleep if taken before bed. Most forms are best absorbed with fats, so take CoQ10 and ubiquinol with meals.
  • Cautions: At typical doses, CoQ10 and ubiquinol appear to be generally safe, but there are possible interactions with blood thinners and diabetes medications (see Concerns and Cautions).

What It Is:
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), also known as ubiquinone, is a naturally occurring anti-oxidant compound and is used for energy production within cells. It's manufactured in the heart, liver, kidney and pancreas. The body normally produces sufficient CoQ10, although some medications such as statins may interfere with this process and CoQ10 levels in the body may decline with age and heart disease. Only small amounts of CoQ10 are available from food, mainly beef and chicken. Consequently, dietary supplements are the most common way to increase the body's CoQ10 levels.

After being absorbed into the body (See Absorption, Formulation and Dose), more than 90% of CoQ10 is converted to its active form, known as (CoQH2-10) or ubiquinol. Ubiquinol has strong antioxidant properties. Conditions that cause oxidative stress on the body, like liver disease, decrease the ratio of ubiquinol to CoQ10. In the body, blood levels of CoQ10 steadily rise from young adulthood through middle-age, peaking at around age 60, when levels then decrease — although they do not fall below levels of early adulthood. However, levels of CoQ10 in tissue of the brain, heart and pancreas do decrease with age. Perhaps of greater significance though, is that, after age 60, the body seems to convert less CoQ10 into its active form (ubiquinol), resulting in a decreased ratio of ubiquinol to CoQ10 and indicating a higher level of oxidative stress (Niklowitz, J Clin Biochem Nutr 2016; Claessens, Ann Clin Biochem 2016). 

Like CoQ10, ubiquinol is available as a dietary supplement. (For more information about forms sold, see What to Consider When Buying and Using.)

What It Does:
Taken orally, coenzyme Q10 may help treat congestive heart failure, a disease in which the heart doesn't adequately maintain circulation. CoQ10's role in cell energy production may be the mechanism by which it assists the heart. An analysis of 13 clinical studies found that taking coenzyme Q10 (usually 100 mg daily) significantly improves how well the heart pumps blood (i.e., ejection fraction) by about 3.7% compared to placebo in people with mild-to-moderate heart failure (Fotino, Am J Clin Nutr 2013). The largest and longest clinical study to date found that taking 100 mg three times daily of coenzyme Q10 for 2 years significantly reduced the chance of an adverse cardiovascular event (e.g., hospitalization, worsening heart failure, or death) by almost 50% compared to placebo in people with moderate-to-severe heart failure and significantly improved measures of quality of life such as activity levels, fatigue, and shortness of breath. It's important to note that these benefits from CoQ10 may require long-term supplementation (2 years); when researchers checked after just 3 months of supplementation, no significant improvements were found (Mortensen, Eur J Heart Failure 2013; Mortensen, JACC Heart Failure 2014). In all of these studies, coenzyme Q10 was used in addition to prescription heart failure treatment, not in place of it.

CoQ10 might help reverse side effects caused by "statins," drugs used to lower high cholesterol, although this has not been well established due to conflicting results. Some of the side effects reportedly reversed with CoQ10 include myalgia (muscle pain), fatigue, dyspnea, memory loss and peripheral neuropathy. In a study among people reporting muscle pain associated with taking statins, a dose of 50 mg of CoQ10 twice daily (100 mg per day) for 30 days reduced the intensity of mild to moderate muscle pain by 33.1% and the interference with daily activities by 40.3%, while no improvement occurred among people treated with placebo. Symptoms improved among seventy-five percent of those treated with CoQ10 (Skarlovnik, Medical Science Monitor 2014). Some studies using higher daily doses of CoQ10 (120 mg to 200 mg) have not shown benefit for muscle pain (Bookstaver, Am J Cardiol 2012; Young, Am J Cardiol 2007).

CoQ10, itself, may modestly lower elevated cholesterol levels. A study among middle aged people in China with high cholesterol levels who were not taking statins or other cholesterol-lowering drugs found that 60 mg of CoQ10 taken twice daily after meals (120 mg per day) for 5 ½ months decreased LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, although not total cholesterol levels, compared to placebo. Among those who took CoQ10, average LDL cholesterol decreased by 6.5% and average triglyceride levels decreased by nearly 20%. In addition, average fasting blood sugar and insulin levels decreased by 6% and 21%, respectively, and average systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased by 4% and 5%, respectively, compared to placebo (Zhang, J Clin Lipidol 2017). (However, as noted in Concerns and Cautions, a review clinical studies concluded that CoQ10 does not have a clinically significant effect on lowering blood pressure).

CoQ10 may reduce symptoms of mitochondrial encephalomyopathies. It may also help prevent migraine headaches, pre-eclampsia (a complication of pregnancy), and reduce the likelihood of more heart problems in some people who've had a first heart attack. CoQ10 may also be useful in treating diseases including muscular dystrophy, AIDS, and hypertension. There is also evidence that it may increase sperm motility. Although CoQ10 is sometimes touted for enhancing athletic performance and treating gum disease, these uses haven't been well demonstrated.

In children with trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), ubiquinol supplementation has been shown to increase the ratio of ubiquinol to CoQ10 to normal levels -- although it is unknown if this provides medical benefit.

A very small study of ubiquinol (100 mg per day) in elderly people suggested an improvement in self-assessed "vitality." More recently, a small, placebo-controlled study in veterans in their forties and early fifties with Gulf War illness found that taking 100 mg of CoQ10 (in oil from a softgel) daily for 3 to 4 months appeared to improve physical function and symptoms of the illness (such as recalling words and names, impatience, irritability, headache, fatigue with exertion, low energy to do things, and muscle pain). There was no improvement with sleep problems — possibly due to an "activation" effect of CoQ10. Self-rated health status also improved among men, although not among women. These effects, however, were not found with a larger, 300 mg dose (Golomb, Neural Computation 2014).

A small, preliminary study in Spain among middle- aged adults with fibromyalgia (chronic, wide-spread muscular pain and fatigue) found that 100 mg of CoQ10 taken three times daily for 40 days significantly improved measures of interpersonal sensitivity, depression, anxiety, hostility, and symptoms of somatization and obsessive-compulsion compared to placebo (Alcocer-Gomez, CNS Neurosci Ther 2017). A reduction in inflammation and clinical symptoms, including sleep quality and tender points, was also noted by the researchers, but, unfortunately, data was not provided for these findings.

Although preliminary research had suggested CoQ10 might delay the progression of Parkinson disease, a large, placebo-controlled clinical study found no benefit from high-doses of CoQ10 (1,200 mg or 2,400 mg daily) in people with early Parkinson Disease (Parkinson Study Group, JAMA Neurol 2014). In fact, over the course of the 16+ month study, symptoms worsened more among those given CoQ10, particularly at the higher dose, than in the placebo group, although these differences were not statistically significant. All patients in the study also received high-dose (1,200 mg daily) vitamin E. An earlier, smaller study had suggested benefit with a daily dose of 1,200 mg of CoQ10 (also with 1,200 mg of vitamin E), although not at lower doses (300 mg and 600 mg) (Shults, Arch Neurol 2002).

Although some studies have found CoQ10 to lower elevated blood pressure, a critical review of these studies concluded that CoQ10 does not have a clinically significant effect in lowering blood pressure (Ho, Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2016). Interestingly, one physician found that CoQ10 helped maintain blood pressure in seven older people with orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure upon standing) who were also using traditional treatments (clonidine, salt tablets, compression stockings etc.). The patients were given 257 mg of CoQ10 daily for approximately eight months. This apparently reduced the drop in systolic blood pressure upon standing from 30 mmHg to just 7 mmHg, although the study lacked controls and can only be considered preliminary. Three of the individuals had signs of multiple system atrophy, an neurogenerative disease that can affect the autonomic nervous system (and therefore, blood pressure) and is associated with mutations in an enzyme involved in CoQ10 synthesis (Rembold, Am J Med 2017).

A preliminary study among 33 healthy, middle-aged women found that 150 mg of water-soluble CoQ10 (Q10Vital® from Valens Intl.) taken daily for three months significantly reduced visible wrinkles around the eyes, nose and lips compared to placebo. However, there were no improvements in wrinkles on the forehead or frown lines between eyebrows, nor were there improvements in skin thickness or hydration, and there was no evidence of increased protection from UV damage. A lower dose (50 mg) had more limited effectiveness (Zmitek, Biofactors 2016).

More information about CoQ10's uses and clinical studies is found in the review article in the Encyclopedia on the website.

Quality Concerns and What CL Tested For:
No U.S. government agency is responsible for routinely testing CoQ10 or ubiquinol supplements for their contents or quality. Research by in 2000, 2004 and 2009 found that not all CoQ10 supplements contained their claimed amounts of active ingredient, although all products tested in 2006 and 2011 met their claims. In 2013, all but one of the CoQ10 and ubiquinol products selected for testing contained their listed amounts of these ingredients, and in 2015, all but two products contained their listed amounts. Because products on the market are constantly changing, again recently evaluated CoQ10 products, as well as ubiquinol products, to determine whether they contained the amounts of CoQ10 or ubiquinol stated on their labels, and, if regular tablets, disintegrated properly. (See How Products Were Evaluated for information on testing methods and passing score.) [Note; In past reviews, has checked CoQ10 and ubiquinol products for idebenone, a potential manufacturing by-product, but none has been found. Consequently, products were not tested for idebenone.]

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