Absorption of Coenzyme Q10, part I

steak
Once we pass the age of 20, our bodies begin to produce less Coenzyme Q10 with increasing age. Various medications, including statin medications, interfere with our production of Coenzyme Q10. Most of us cannot hope to make up the difference in our meals. For good heart health, we need a daily Coenzyme Q10 supplement. The ubiquinone form of supplement is the most stable form and the most carefully researched form.

Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like substance that is an essential bio-nutrient.  It is vital for the cellular process of ATP energy production. It is an important antioxidant protecting the cells against harmful free radicals. It is thought to improve epithelial cell function in the blood vessels and to protect against the development of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. In this essay, we review some of  the basic facts of Coenzyme Q10 absorption and bio-availability.

Importance of Coenzyme Q10 absorption
Coenzyme Q10 bio-synthesis declines with age
Our bodies produce Coenzyme Q10 in much the same way that they produce cholesterol.  However, once we reach our 20’s, our bio-synthesis of Coenzyme Q10 begins to decline with increasing age [Kalén].  One estimate is that the plasma Coenzyme Q10 concentration of an average 65-year-old will be only about half the plasma concentration of an average 25-year-old: approximately 0.65 micrograms per milliliter versus 1.35 micrograms per milliliter.

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Coenzyme Q10 in muscle tissue cells

Bill Judy Picture
How much of the concentration of Coenzyme Q10 in muscle tissue is endogenous Coenzyme Q10 produced in the muscle tissue cells themselves, and how much is exogenous Coenzyme Q10 entering the tissue from the blood? Dr. Judy remembers that Japanese researchers were the first to determine these cellular levels in muscle tissue. They tagged the plasma Coenzyme Q10 – the Coenzyme Q10 from supplements –with an isotope. Then, afterwards, they measured the Coenzyme Q10 in muscle tissue cells. In their measurements, the tagged exogenous Coenzyme Q10 was about 48% of the total, and the endogenous Coenzyme Q10 was about 52%. Of course, in the case of older people and in cases of cellular Coenzyme Q10 deficiencies (heart failure and chronic fatigue, for example), the levels of exogenous CoQ10 can be expected to exceed the levels of endogenous Coenzyme Q10.

Okay, from solid research results, we know several things about the essential bio-nutrient Coenzyme Q10.

  • our bodies produce Coenzyme Q10, which is an essential substance for our cells’ energy production and for the antioxidant protection of our cells
  • once we reach our 20’s, our body’s own production of Coenzyme Q10 decreases with increasing age
  • statin medications inhibit our bodies’ production of Coenzyme Q10
  • we are very unlikely to get all the Coenzyme Q10 that we need from our food
  • the risk of heart disease and other diseases increases with the lesser availability of Coenzyme Q10
  • we need a daily Coenzyme Q10 supplement.

Coenzyme Q10 levels in tissue cell and in plasma
Basic fact: Plasma Coenzyme Q10 levels will always exceed tissue cell Coenzyme Q10 levels except, possibly, in some very well-conditioned athletes, e.g. soccer players and cross-country skiers and cyclists. In some superior athletes, the tissue cell Coenzyme Q10 levels and the plasma Coenzyme Q10 levels may come close to being equal.

How does Coenzyme Q10 get from the blood to the cells?
Coenzyme Q10 molecules move from the blood into the tissue cells by the process of diffusion.  If plasma Coenzyme Q10 concentrations were lower than the tissue cell Coenzyme Q10 concentrations, then the diffusion of Coenzyme Q10 from the blood into the tissue cells could not take place.  There would need to be some sort of active transport of Coenzyme Q10 into the tissue cells, and we know of no active transport of Coenzyme Q10 into the tissue cells [Judy 2016].

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Dr. Judy speaks about Coenzyme Q10

dr-judy-in-bologna-2015
Dr. William V. Judy delivering remarks about Coenzyme Q10 absorption at the International Coenzyme Q10 Association conference in Bologna, Italy, in October, 2015.

Dr. William V. Judy earned his doctorate degree in physiology and bio-physics in 1971.  He has worked as an aerospace scientist in NASA’s manned spacecraft center and has taught in the Indiana University School of Medicine as a Professor of Physiology.  Dr. Judy has worked in basic and clinical research for 56 years now; the major focus of his research has been on the absorption, efficacy, and safety of Coenzyme Q10.  He was an early colleague of Dr. Karl Folkers, with whom he carried out joint research studies for 21 years.
 
Absorption of Coenzyme Q10 from supplements
Dr. Judy makes the following points about the absorption of Coenzyme Q10:

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Coenzyme Q10: The best of q10facts.com

Karl Folkers
Dr. Karl Folkers, the researcher who established the chemical structure of the Coenzyme Q10 molecule and who developed the biochemical rationale for the use of Coenzyme Q10 as an adjuvant treatment of chronic heart disease, called Coenzyme Q10 the “essential bio-nutrient.”

In this article, I look back over the past 80 q10facts.com articles and pick out my favorites.  Together, these articles give a good picture of what I have tried to present on this website: documented results from scientific studies of the absorption, safety, and efficacy of Coenzyme Q10 supplements in the form of ubiquinone.  At the present time, there simply is not the same quality or quantity of research results related to the use of Coenzyme Q10 supplements in the ubiquinol form.

Coenzyme Q10’s therapeutic value
This article summarized the clinical research evidence for the use of Coenzyme Q10 as an adjunctive therapy for the following patients:

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Coenzyme Q10 and the NQO-1 gene

Cyclist
Coenzyme Q10 is a fat-soluble redox molecule that we produce in nearly all cells in the body. Once we reach our 20’s, our body’s synthesis of Coenzyme Q10 begins to decline with increasing age. But our need for Coenzyme Q10 continues, both in the process of producing ATP energy molecules and in the cells’ defense against harmful free radicals. Consequently, we need a good daily supplement.

NQO1 gene? … NQO-1 enzymes? … I don’t remember reading or hearing about the NQO-1 gene in all of the years that I have been taking Coenzyme Q10 supplements. But, for Dr. William Judy, the NQO-1 gene seems to be one of the three or four Q10 questions that he has been most preoccupied with for several years.

NQO-1 gene important in the biochemistry of Coenzyme Q10
NQO-1 is used as shorthand for both the gene and the oxidoreductase enzymes that the gene codes for.  The NADPH-Quinone Oxidoreductase-1 gene –  to give it its full name –  is the gene that codes in humans for the production of enzymes that reduce quinones to hydroquinones.

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Coenzyme Q10: It’s the formulation that’s important!

Woman making food
To stay as healthy as we can as late in life as possible, we need to eat properly. We also need a daily Coenzyme Q10 nutritional supplement. The Q-Symbio study and the KiSel-10 study have shown the heart health benefits of Coenzyme Q10 supplementation. Those studies show, moreover, that older adults benefit from a Coenzyme supplement based on the ubiquinone form.

What is becoming more and more apparent about the absorption of Coenzyme Q10 nutritional supplements?  I have been putting together the information that I have been reading and hearing.  Here is what seems to be the case:

Raw material Coenzyme Q10: not the big difference maker
The Coenzyme Q10 raw material from the biggest producers of the dry powder crystalline substance seems to be comparable to a high degree. There seems to be equivalency of quality in the Coenzyme Q10 raw material.  What counts is how the maker of Coenzyme Q10 supplements processes that raw material.

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Crystal-free Coenzyme Q10 supplements

Bill Judy Picture
Dr. Judy says that the crystal-free Coenzyme Q10 supplements with the ubiquinone form of CoQ10 dissolved in vegetables oils will give consumers the best absorption.

Dr. William Judy, the long-time Coenzyme Q10 researcher and founder and president of the SIBR Research Institute, makes the point that the absorption cells in the human small intestine cannot absorb Coenzyme Q10 crystals.  The absorption cells can handle Coenzyme Q10 only as single molecules.

Coenzyme Q10 raw material in the form of dry powder crystals
The Coenzyme Q10 raw material that Coenzyme Q10 supplement manufacturers purchase comes in the form of dry powder crystals.  These crystals are formed in the multiple drying stages of the purification of Coenzyme Q10.

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Coenzyme Q10 on prescription?

Mother and daughter
We know that the body’s production of Coenzyme Q10 begins to decrease with age once we reach our 20’s, and we know that Coenzyme Q10 plays an important role in both cellular bio-energetics and antioxidant protection. It just makes sense to supplement our diets with Coenzyme Q10 in an attempt to avoid heart failure later on in life.

For as long as I have been writing this blog, I have been wondering why cardiologists are not prescribing Coenzyme Q10 for certain classes of heart disease patients.  Two classes of patients come to mind immediately: chronic heart failure patients and patients taking statin medications.  Let’s look at the evidence for heart failure patients. (We can talk about patients on statin medications next week.)

Coenzyme Q10 and chronic heart failure
Chronic heart failure.  Heart failure.  It sounds scary.  It is scary.  The words “heart failure” do not mean that the heart has stopped working.  What heart failure means is some combination of the following conditions:

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Dr. Judy explains Coenzyme Q10 absorption

Bill Judy Picture
Dr. William Judy, founder and director of the SIBR Institute, is arguably the world’s leading expert on Coenzyme Q10 absorption. He has led numerous lab studies and animal studies and clinical trials on the absorption and effects of Coenzyme Q10 preparations.

We know that Coenzyme Q10 is an essential co-factor in at least three important processes in the body: cellular energy production, cellular and lipid antioxidant defense, and regulation of endothelial cell function. We know that our adult bodies produce less Coenzyme Q10 with increasing age, and we know that most of us cannot make up the difference through the food that we eat [6]. From the age of 40 on, we need a good Coenzyme Q10 supplement daily.  I asked Dr. William Judy what is involved in getting a good Coenzyme Q10 supplement.

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Coenzyme Q10 and migraine headaches

Headache -- woman
Studies show that teens and young adults suffering from migraine headaches are likely to have abnormally low blood levels of Coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 is an essential bio-nutrient that is important in the production of cellular energy and in the antioxidant protection of the cells.

On the sciencedaily.com website, there is a report of a conference paper presented by Dr. Suzanne Hagler of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society in San Diego. Dr. Hagler reported that teens and young adults with migraine headaches are often found to have mild deficiencies of Coenzyme Q10, vitamin D, and the B vitamin riboflavin [1].

Mild Coenzyme Q10 deficiencies in young people
Interesting, I thought. Coenzyme Q10 is produced in all of the body’s cells except the red blood cells. The body’s production of Coenzyme Q10 rises until a person reaches his or her 20s, and, from then on, the bio-synthesis of Coenzyme Q10 declines steadily. By age 65, senior citizens may be producing only half as much Coenzyme Q10 as they did when there were 25 years of age.  Hence the need for a good Coenzyme Q10 supplement.

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