You think you’re doing everything right to stay healthy. You eat a healthy, balanced diet, make sure to get plenty of exercise, try to uphold good sleep habits and maintain a healthy weight. On paper, things are looking great, but inside may tell a different story.
There’s no denying that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is extremely important, but there are some processes, like aging, that happen no matter how well we take care of ourselves, and they can contribute to declining health. That’s where supplements, such as CoQ10 (sometimes known as ubiquinol or ubiquinone) may be beneficial. Naturally occurring coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10 in the body plays a vital role in helping to protect our cells from potential free radical damage that naturally occurs as we age. But the reality is that as we age, our bodies can begin to produce less CoQ10, which is where supplementation can come in handy.
However, not all CoQ10 supplements are created equal, so which one should you try and how much CoQ10 should you take?
What is CoQ10?
You know that CoQ10 can help support your health as you age, but what exactly does that mean? CoQ10 is a naturally occurring antioxidant that is produced by the body and is important in the cellular process of cellular respiration. Cellular respiration is a process in which the mitochondria, or “powerhouses” of our cells, convert energy from oxygen molecules or nutrients into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) that is then used by our bodies for fuel.
Without cellular respiration, our muscles, organs, and cells wouldn’t have the energy they need to carry out basic life processes, like breathing, digesting food, and supporting our immune system. Since mitochondria are responsible for carrying out this process, it is important for our health they are supported. That’s where antioxidants like CoQ10 come in.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants like CoQ10 can be thought of as cellular defenders. They can be naturally produced by the body or consumed through the food we eat. Antioxidants that are naturally produced by us are called endogenous antioxidants, while those that are produced by plants are called phytonutrients. Both are equally important, but CoQ10 is an endogenous antioxidant. Antioxidants defend the body by helping to support our cells byproduct of cellular respiration, called free radicals. Free radicals can cause cellular damage because they are unstable, so antioxidants seek out these molecules and stabilize them. Without antioxidants, free radicals are able to cause significant damage to the cells, which could eventually lead to a number of health conditions.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals might be a byproduct of one of the most important cellular processes, but they can be damaging if left unchecked. Free radicals usually come in the form of an atom of nitrogen or oxygen with an unpaired electron in the outer shell, which makes them unstable. Molecules don’t like being unstable, so free radicals constantly search for molecules that they can steal an electron from. When this occurs, the molecule that has its electron stolen becomes damaged irreparably and its cellular structure is compromised. Free radicals can damage any molecule in the body, including DNA, protein, fat, and more. This is where antioxidants come in; they seek out the free radicals and can stabilize them by providing the missing electron that the free radicals are seeking. Once the free radical is stable, it will no longer try to damage other cells.
What happens if we don’t have enough antioxidants?
We previously alluded to the fact that no matter how well you take care of yourself, aging is inevitable and as a part of aging a decline in health can begin, but why is that? The answer can be traced all the way back to your mitochondria, which are responsible for cellular respiration. Our bodies usually produce CoQ10 and free radicals during cellular respiration in roughly equal numbers, which means that we have plenty of antioxidants to help protect the cells and mitochondria against potential damage caused by free radicals. As we age, our bodies can begin to produce less CoQ10, but the amount of free radicals in the body may remain the same. This imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants is a precursor to a condition called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when the body cannot counteract the damage of free radicals due to insufficient numbers of antioxidants. Temporary periods of oxidative stress are common and help us perform at a higher level for shorter periods of time, such as while we are exercising. When we experience oxidative stress for an extended period of time, however, due to an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals, it may indicate that the health of our mitochondria is on the decline.
Why does it matter if mitochondria are healthy?
It might not seem like such a tiny part of our cells could have a major impact on our overall physical health, but without healthy mitochondria, our bodies do not have the energy we need to survive. When mitochondria are in good health, they are able to work efficiently and produce plenty of ATP to help us carry out our essential life functions each day. The health of our mitochondria is strongly linked to our CoQ10 levels, and mitochondrial health is largely influenced by aging. Lifestyle factors such as eating a poor diet with lots of fatty or processed foods, inadequate exercise, or lack of sleep can all exacerbate a decline in mitochondrial health, but aging is the most common factor because it usually precipitates a decline in CoQ10. When our mitochondrial health begins to decline, we start to notice some unpleasant side effects, including:
- Feeling tired or lacking energy
- Changes in mood
- Increased effects of aging
- Difficulty sleeping
- Diminished athletic performance and recovery
- Feeling stressed or anxious
- Mental clarity issues
How can CoQ10 help?
We don’t have to accept declining mitochondrial health as completely inevitable. We know that mitochondrial health is influenced by the amount of CoQ10 in our bodies and our ability to support the protection of mitochondria against damage caused by free radicals, so it makes sense that supplementing our diets with CoQ10 may help support our mitochondrial health. Some CoQ10 supplements can help the body by providing a boost in the number of antioxidants that are available to fight free radicals, but not all CoQ10 supplements are equally effective.
Many dietary CoQ10 supplements use a formula that contains a large molecule size that is not easily absorbed by the cells. This was a major issue with CoQ10 supplements until our scientists in New Zealand discovered a new formula, now sold as MitoQ. Their research showed the mitochondrial membrane has a significant negative charge when compared to the rest of the cell, so if CoQ10 supplementation was going to breach the mitochondrial membrane, it needed to be paired with a positively charged molecule. Additionally, the mitochondrial membrane is nearly impermeable, so the form of CoQ10 molecule needs to be as small as possible in order to permeate the membrane and get the ultimate effects of coenzyme q10.
This combination means MitoQ accumulates inside the mitochondria hundreds of times more effectively than any other CoQ10 supplement and means you don’t have to take as much in order to experience noticeable results.
How much CoQ10 should you take?
You may have heard that you need to take a large amount of CoQ10 in order to notice an improvement in your health, but that idea is based on the nature of other supplements that were developed prior to the breakthrough that introduced MitoQ. Conventional wisdom recommends taking 500 to 1200 mg of CoQ10 per day because very little of the supplement is actually absorbed by the mitochondrial membrane. Essentially, you’re paying extra to take a supplement that you’re mostly not even using; the majority may be going to waste. This is not the case with MitoQ, which boasts a highly absorbable formula that means that people can use more than ten times less than the normal CoQ10 concentrations and may still receive greater health benefits to their mitochondrial health.
The recommended dose of MitoQ 10 is just 10 mg taken once per day. When you take 10 mg per day of MitoQ, you may help your body maintain general health and wellbeing, support mental focus, sustain energy levels, support healthy aging and overall cellular and human health for added resilience and vitality. Unlike most CoQ10 supplements which are fat soluble and therefore must be taken with a meal or snack that contains healthy fats, MitoQ does not have to be taken with food because its molecules are water soluble. Getting older doesn’t have to mean slowing down.
Supplementing your diet with CoQ10 in the form of MitoQ may give you the boost you need to live life to the fullest.