Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a popular antioxidant and anti-inflammatory supplement that many people use primarily for its extensively studied heart health benefits.

What is CoQ10?

CoQ10 is found in just about every one of your cells, so it makes sense that adding it to your daily routine could have health benefits.1 There are two forms of CoQ10: ubiquinol, the active form, and ubiquinone, which your body uses to make ubiquinol.2

CoQ10 is an antioxidant, meaning that it helps protect your cells from free radical damage that can lead to heart disease. It also helps convert the food you eat into energy that your body can use, and acts similarly to fat-soluble vitamins.2

In addition to supplements and your cells, CoQ10 is also found in foods like organ meat, sardines, chicken, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Heart Benefits of CoQ10

Research shows that taking CoQ10 may be especially beneficial for people with heart disease, and may help lower the risk for recurrent heart attacks. A 2003 study found that when people took CoQ10 shortly after having an initial heart attack, they were significantly less likely to experience another one in the next year.3 Only 24% of the CoQ10 group experienced another heart attack in this time frame, compared to the 46% of those in the control group. CoQ10 may also help reduce risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure and inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein.

It has also been extensively studied for the ability to improve health outcomes for people with heart failure. In a 2007 meta-analysis, researchers found that CoQ10 supplementation could lower systolic blood pressure by up to 17 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by up to 10 mm Hg.4 A 2018 review found evidence that CoQ10 could be a beneficial part of treatment for heart failure, especially for those who didn’t tolerate mainstream medical treatments.5

An older study from 1993 looked at the effects of CoQ10 versus placebo on 641 people with heart failure for a year. Researchers found that those in the CoQ10 were hospitalized less frequently for heart failure symptoms and complications than the placebo group.6

Some research also suggests that CoQ10 has the most protective effects on heart health when it’s used in combination with selenium supplementation.7

CoQ10 Levels, Age, and Heart Health

Even though your body produces and stores CoQ10, your levels drop as you get older - even as early as in your twenties. Low levels of CoQ10 can increase your risk for cell damage as well as having low levels of HDL “good” cholesterol known to be protective of your heart. Low CoQ10 may be associated with an increased risk for heart and brain tissue damage during a heart attack or stroke, respectively.

Interestingly, other conditions often experienced by the aging population, like fibromyalgia, diabetes, certain cancers, and muscular diseases, are often also associated with low levels of CoQ10.2

How do you know what your CoQ10 levels are and if they’re lower than ideal? The good news is that there’s an easy blood test that can tell you. While you’re at it, you might want to get your HDL cholesterol levels checked, as low levels could indicate that your CoQ10 levels are also low.

How to Use CoQ10 for Heart Health

If you decide to try CoQ10, there are a few things to keep in mind to reap the most health benefits:

  • Take CoQ10 with food for optimal absorption, as it acts similarly to the fat-soluble vitamins in the body.
  • Consider which form is better suited for your age. Older individuals may see more benefits from taking the active antioxidant form, ubiquinol, whereas ubiquinone may be better for younger people.1
  • Like any other supplement or medication, take it only as directed for the most benefit.

Even though CoQ10 has a lot of promising research behind its benefits, ongoing research on its specific applications for heart health is suggested by many researchers. Whenever you decide to take a supplement, including CoQ10, it’s best to speak to your healthcare provider to make sure it’s appropriate for you.8

References

  1. CoQ10: What are the Heart Health Benefits? Cleveland Heart Lab. Published September 9, 2015. Accessed September 8, 2019.
  2. Sood B & Keenaghan M. Coenzyme Q10. Updated Feb 15, 2019. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-.
  3. Singh RB, Neki NS, Kartikey K, Pella D, Kumar A, Niaz MA, & Thakur AS. Effect of coenzyme Q10 on risk of atherosclerosis in patients with recent myocardial infarction. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Apr;246(1-2):75-82.
  4. Rosenfeldt FL, Haas SJ, Krum H, Had j, Ng K, Leong JY, & Watts G. Coenzyme Q10 in the treatment of hypertension: a meta-analysis of the clinical trials. J Human Hypertension. 2007: 21,297–306.
  5. Jafari M, Mousavi SM, Asgharzadeh A, & Yazdani N. Coenzyme Q10 in the treatment of heart failure: A systematic review of systematic reviews. Indian Heart J. 2018 Jul;70 Suppl 1:S111-S117.
  6. Morisco C1, Trimarco B, Condorelli M. Effect of coenzyme Q10 therapy in patients with congestive heart failure: a long-term multicenter randomized study. Clin Investig. 1993;71(8 Suppl):S134-6.
  7. Alehagen U, Aaseth J, Alexander J, & Johansson P. Still reduced cardiovascular mortality 12 years after supplementation with selenium and coenzyme Q10 for four years: A validation of previous 10-year follow-up results of a prospective randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial in elderly. PLoS One. 2018 Apr 11;13(4):e0193120.
  8. Ayers J, Cook J, Koenig RA, Sisson EM, & Dixon DL. Recent Developments in the Role of Coenzyme Q10 for Coronary Heart Disease: a Systematic Review.
    Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2018 May 16;20(6):29.