The Science Behind MitoQ

MitoQ is often described as “a thousand times” more effective than related antioxidants. You may have wondered whether this statement is based on robust science, or is it just another dubious advertising slogan?

How can MitoQ be a thousand times more effective than related antioxidants?

MitoQ is often described as “a thousand times” more effective than related antioxidants. You may have wondered whether this statement is based on robust science, or is it just another dubious advertising slogan?

It turns out that the “thousand fold increased efficacy” of MitoQ comes from over a decade of research that has been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals1-3.

MitoQ is different from other antioxidants because it has a positive charge that attracts it into the negatively charged mitochondria3 (opposite charges attract). Once inside mitochondria, MitoQ works by protecting against the free radicals produced there that cause cell damage and death3.


So, the charge explains why MitoQ is attracted to mitochondria, but how do we know that it is a thousand times more effective, rather than say a hundred times or ten times?

To explain this you need to know that in releasing energy from the food we eat mitochondria use the oxygen we breathe and become more negatively charged. We can measure the size of this charge as a voltage and the larger the voltage the more MitoQ will be taken up by mitochondria4.  In our cells this voltage is about one hundred and eighty millivolts and there is actually an equation that tells us exactly how much MitoQ should be pulled into mitochondria4. It turns out that the amount of MitoQ in mitochondria increases ten times for every sixty millivolts of voltage. So for a voltage of one hundred and eighty, which is three times sixty, MitoQ uptake should be ten times ten times ten, or a thousand times greater than for a conventional antioxidant2,4.  This means that the “thousand times more effective” claim is based on solid science2.


That’s all very well in theory, but do we know if this works in practice?

To find out we can measure the amount of MitoQ taken up by mitochondria and cells and when we do this we find that MitoQ is actually concentrated about a thousand times1,5,6. However, there is an even better experimental demonstration that MitoQ is a thousand fold more effective7.  The amount of MitoQ required to protect cells from free radical damage turns out to be about a thousand times less than for an antioxidant such as CoQ7.

Why is this? Well, the protection from oxidative damage by MitoQ is due to the negative charge on the mitochondria pulling in the MitoQ.  To get the same protection with CoQ a thousand times more has to be added just to get the same antioxidant level within the mitochondria. So as you can see, the claim that MitoQ is “a thousand fold more protective” than other antioxidants is based on years of scientific research and is far more than a slogan.



[1] G.F. Kelso, C.M. Porteous, C.V. Coulter, G. Hughes, W.K. Porteous, E.C. Ledgerwood, R.A. Smith, M.P. Murphy, Selective targeting of a redox-active ubiquinone to mitochondria within cells: antioxidant and antiapoptotic properties,  J Biol Chem, 276 (2001) 4588-4596.

[2] R.A.J. Smith, R.C. Hartley, H.M. Cocheme, M.P. Murphy, Mitochondrial pharmacology, Trends Pharmacological Sciences, 33 (2012) 341-352.

[3] M.P. Murphy, R.A.J. Smith, Targeting antioxidants to mitochondria by conjugation to lipophilic cations, Annu Review Pharmacol Toxicol, 47 (2007) 629-656.

[4] M.F. Ross, G.F. Kelso, F.H. Blaikie, A.M. James, H.M. Cocheme, A. Filipovska, T. Da Ros, T.R. Hurd, R.A. J. Smith, M.P. Murphy, Lipophilic triphenylphosphonium cations as tools in mitochondrial bioenergetics and free radical biology, Biochemistry (Mosc), 70 (2005) 222-230.

[5] M.F. Ross, T.A. Prime, I. Abakumova, A.M. James, C.M. Porteous, R.A.J. Smith, M.P. Murphy, Rapid and extensive uptake and activation of hydrophobic triphenylphosphonium cations within cells, Biochem J, 411 (2008) 633-645.

[6] J. Asin-Cayuela, A.R. Manas, A.M. James, R.A.J. Smith, M.P. Murphy, Fine-tuning the hydrophobicity of a mitochondria-targeted antioxidant, FEBS Letts, 571 (2004) 9-16.

[7] M.L. Jauslin, T. Meier, R.A.J. Smith, M.P. Murphy, Mitochondria-targeted antioxidants protect Friedreich Ataxia fibroblasts from endogenous oxidative stress more effectively than untargeted antioxidants, FASEB J, 17 (2003) 1972-1974.


Topics: MitoQ, Health & Science