Introducing Ubiquinol, the form of CoQ10 that every cell needs
15 May 2015 | Editor
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Ubiquinol: the favoured form of CoQ10?
Coenzyme Q10 has developed an excellent name for itself for keeping the heart healthy. Its antioxidant action and ability to recycle vitamin E helps it to protect the heart and blood vessels from damage, while its irreplaceable role in making energy keeps the heart pumping and strong. We now also know that coenzyme Q10 is involved in the regulation of hundreds of genes, which may be one of the reasons why low levels of CoQ10 have been linked to so many neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, as well as breast cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Harnessing energy from food
This hardworking nutrient is therefore important for every cell in the body, not least because every cell in the body needs CoQ10 to make our energy-storing ATP molecules, and we can’t produce energy from food without it. These molecules of energy help to power everything in the body from transport to muscle contraction.
The process of making ATP is fairly complex, but our cells can be very efficient at producing these miniscule batteries of energy, as long as there is enough oxygen present. CoQ10 is involved in the final stage of ATP production in a part of the cell called the mitochondrion, where electrons need to be transported along a dam-type system that harnesses energy. Without CoQ10, those electrons have nothing to carry them.
Ubiquinol or ubiquinone – which form is best?
As the CoQ10 picks up and drops electrons, it changes form between ubiquinone, which is full of electrons, and ubiquinol, which is free of electrons and so ready for work. CoQ10 operates in a similar way as an antioxidant: ubiquinol is ready to mop up free radicals, and in doing so is converted to ubiquinone, which is full up and therefore no longer available for work. Both forms are available as supplements, but it is the ubiquinolthat is often more useful.
As we convert ubiquinoneinto ubiquinoland vice versa in the cell’s mitochondria, it would be easy to think that it doesn’t matter which form we take. Studies show, however, that as we age, we become less efficient in converting ubiquinoneto ubiquinol.1 Our total coenzyme Q10 levels may stay the same, but our ubiquinollevels are lower.
Low ubiquinollevels have also been associated with a number of diseases, including heart failure, liver disease and diabetes. In addition, ubiquinone has been found to be much less effective than ubiquinolin trials investigating high cholesterol, heart disease and Parkinson’s disease.
For example, in a Texas study of severe congestive heart failure patients, ubiquinone failed to bring the patients’ blood serum levels of CoQ10 up to where they should be, even with doses of up to 900mg daily. Supplementing with ubiquinolshowed a different story. Levels of CoQ10 in the bloodstream increased from an average of 1.6mcg/ml to 6.5mcg/ml, and the measurements and symptoms of their heart condition improved substantially.
How and why to supplement
With ubiquinol deficiency linked to so many diseases and conditions, and knowing that we tend to struggle to convert ubiquinone to ubiquinol the older we get, you may wish to consider a ubiquinol supplement. In fact at any time of life it would be wise to consider what kind of assistance we can give to our body’s most essential functions, such as energy production, gene expression and protection for oxidative stress.
Coenzyme Q10 supplements come in both forms, so it is important to check that you are getting the more active ubiquinol. For more information, see our newsletter “Coenzyme Q10 – the crucial cog in the wheel that keeps us moving.”
Wada H et al. Redox status of coenzyme Q10 is associated with chronological age. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2007 Jul;55(7):1141-2.