CoQ10 is found in almost every cell of your body. It is a fat-soluble, vitamin-like antioxidant that helps convert food into energy while also fighting damage to cells from free radicals.
CoQ10 is found in the mitochondria (known as the energy-producing “powerhouse” of cells). The mitochondria make an important molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP functions as the cell’s major energy source and drives many biological processes, including muscle contraction and the production of protein. Generally, the organs that require the most energy, muscles, heart, kidneys, and liver, have a higher concentration of CoQ10.
CoQ10 is mainly used as a supplement to support heart health, including high blood pressure, angina, poor circulation and side effects due to statin drugs. It is also used as an antioxidant to support the aging process and optimal muscle function and as a prenatal supplement during pregnancy.
Although CoQ10 is naturally produced in the body, levels decrease with age and are generally lower in individuals with chronic diseases such as heart conditions, muscular dystrophies, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and diabetes.
CoQ10 is produced in the body by complicated biochemical pathways and, as such, can come in different forms with different absorption activities. Although sounding similar, ubiquinone and ubiquinol are different forms of CoQ10. In biochemistry terms, you would say that CoQ10 exists in oxidized (ubiquinone) and reduced/active (ubiquinol) states. The oxidized effects of ubiquinone mean that it could be more effective for promoting energy metabolism inside your cells, while the active form of ubiquinol means it is a better antioxidant. Taking one or the other will depend on a few factors; let’s take a closer look.
Table of Contents
In supplement form, Ubiquinone is the standard form of CoQ10. You will find it in many different potencies starting at 60 mg and going all the way up to 400 mg. However, it’s important to note that the body must first convert ubiquinone into ubiquinol for it to become fully bioavailable (absorbable). After the age of 40 and for those with health concerns, it becomes harder to make this conversion.
Ubiquinol is the therapeutic form of CoQ10, which is why it is preferred by practitioners. In this form, ubiquinol acts as an antioxidant to protect against free radical-induced damage to DNA, lipids, and proteins. Here are some situations where ubiquinol is preferred:
- For older adults: Older adults generally have increased production of free radicals, lower antioxidant defenses and a decreased ability to replenish CoQ10 naturally. This is why supplementing with ubiquinol is preferred. In one double-blind (neither the researcher nor participants knew which group they were in), randomized (participants were selected from the application list at random), crossover (each person’s data is individually compared before and after treatment) trial, ten older men were randomized to consume either ubiquinol or ubiquinone supplement. After 2 weeks of supplementation, it was found the ubiquinol supplement significantly increased plasma CoQ10 status over the ubiquinone supplement.
- For those with health concerns: We know that after the age of 40, and for those who have health concerns, it is harder to convert ubiquinone to ubiquinol. In a small study, volunteers were either given ubiquinone or ubiquinol and after four weeks, they found the group taking ubiquinol had better absorption. Another study found that supplementing with 300 mg of ubiquinol for six weeks “significantly enhanced” physical performance and maximum power output of athletes preparing for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
It’s also worth pointing out that your dose of ubiquinone and ubiquinol will differ. Since ubiquinol is the more bioavailable form of CoQ10, it is sold in lower doses. You can take half the dose of CoQ10 when using ubiquinol than what you would take with the ubiquinone form. For example, if you want 400 mg of CoQ10, you can take 200 mg of ubiquinol vs 400 mg of ubiquinone; although most practitioners recommend starting with 100 mg of ubiquinol.
Though ubiquinol is more absorbable than ubiquinone, it is not for everyone. However, if you want to use ubiquinol for any of the health concerns listed in this article, and are ok with the higher price tag, supplementing with ubiquinol might be for you.
Whether you choose to take ubiquinone or ubiquinol, there are plenty of formats available to you including gummies, capsules, liquids and skin creams. While gummies are an easy and tasty way to get your daily dose of CoQ10, they generally contain a lower dose and often contain sugar. Also, keep in mind that hard gel capsules don’t contain the oil base that helps make CoQ10 more bioavailable. And lastly, liquids are often combined with other essential fatty acids and for the most part, include CoQ10 in a lower dose. For these reasons, we recommend taking CoQ10 soft gels which are easy to swallow and digest (this is particularly important if your digestion is compromised). Softgels are also encapsulated with oil, which as mentioned, helps improve the absorption of your CoQ10 supplement. CoQ10 and ubiquinol are fat-soluble so for best results, take them with fatty food to support optimal absorption.
A Note on External Creams
External creams and serums are also a great addition to your CoQ10 regime, especially if you are concerned about aging and want to support youthful skin. Just keep in mind that to achieve the real benefits of CoQ10, you will need to also take an oral supplement.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your practitioner prior to taking herbs or nutritional supplements.