CoQ10 is the primary antioxidant the human cell provides to protect and support mitochondria. Mitochondria are most abundant in the tissues and cells of our bodies that need the most energy to function properly.
I first heard about CoQ10 around 25 years ago when I read a study published about four women with metastatic breast cancer whose cancer disappeared after they took large doses of CoQ10 (about 1200 mg per day). At the time, the role that the mitochondria play in human disease and the role that CoQ10 plays to protect and support mitochondria were just becoming widely known.
Mitochondria are essentially independent organisms (primitive bacteria) that merged with our cells eons ago. Some have called this merger “the grand bargain of life.” That is, the mitochondria “agree” to produce the energy the human organism needs (in the form of ATP), and in return, the human cell provides the mitochondria with the antioxidants it needs to protect itself from the damage that would otherwise occur from all this energy production. Even though my understanding of the role of ATP has evolved since that time, these basic principles still hold true.
CoQ10 is the primary antioxidant the human cell provides to protect and support mitochondria. Without this vital molecule, the level of ATP that the mitochondria produce drops, the energy that is available to that tissue decreases, and dysfunction and health conditions can potentially develop.
Also, certain exposures either create an increased need for CoQ10 by these tissues, such as pesticide or other environmental-toxin exposures, or deplete these tissues of their CoQ10. The most notorious are statin drugs. This depletion of CoQ10 is probably the predominant reason that statin use is associated with such widespread toxicity to the brain, heart and immune system. Clearly, having an adequate supply of CoQ10 to these vital tissues is crucial to our overall health and to the prevention of diseases associated with decreased function of these organs. A short list of diseases that may be associated with CoQ10 deficiency include heart failure, coronary artery disease, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, cancer, chronic fatigue and any other disease associated with the decreased energy production that accompanies aging.
After reading that report on the success of CoQ10 with certain patients with advanced cancer, I saw others try to replicate this outcome with only limited success. As is often the case with medicine and supplements, it is not so simple to go from understanding the source of an illness (i.e., the deficiency of a certain nutrient) to fixing the problem by supplying a large quantity of that nutrient. Such issues as absorption and getting the nutrient to the right place in the body need to be solved.
Through the years, as research on the crucial role of CoQ10 in protecting mitochondrial function has evolved, so, too, has the search for a way to assure that the CoQ10 we ingest actually finds its way to support mitochondria.
*This article was first published here.