Coenzyme Q10 supplements are clearly one of the products in today’s America that come in many different formulations. And, with respect to Coenzyme Q10’s absorption and effectiveness, the important difference is the difference in the formulation. Dr. William Judy, the director of the SIBR Research Institute, has tested Coenzyme Q10 supplements with absorption rates ranging from below 1% to as high as 8% of a 100-milligram capsule.
Coenzyme Q10 absorption necessary for heart health benefits
That is as good as saying that some Coenzyme Q10 supplements give no absorption of consequence at all. At the other end of the spectrum, we know that some formulations give an absorption that is associated with statistically significant health benefits. I am referring, of course, to the results that we have seen in these randomized controlled trials:
- Q-Symbio study [Mortensen] = significantly improved symptoms and survival for chronic heart failure patients
- KiSel-10 study [Alehagen] = significantly improved heart function for elderly adults in the Coenzyme Q10 and selenium group as compared with the placebo group
- Gulf War veterans study [Golomb] = significant improvement in general self-rated health and in summary performance scores for Gulf War Illness veterans
In addition, a 2007 meta-analysis has shown that Coenzyme Q10 can lower systolic blood pressure by up to 17 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by up to 10 mm Hg without significant side effects for high blood pressure patients [Rosenfeldt].
Coenzyme Q10 raw material pretty much the same quality
As nearly as I can tell from talking to people in the industry, the Coenzyme Q10 raw material is pretty much the same regardless of which supplier one uses. One manufacturer told me that the Coenzyme Q10 raw material is 99% pure from all of the reputable suppliers.
What is the secret of a good Coenzyme Q10 supplement?
Yes, undoubtedly the purity of the raw material is important. Also important is a raw material with only (or nearly exclusively) the trans form of the Coenzyme Q10 molecules.
But, the secret … drum roll, please … the secret of the good Coenzyme Q10 supplement is to be found in the process that the manufacturer of the Coenzyme Q10 supplement uses. That is where the big differences occur.
Not enough to buy Coenzyme Q10 raw material and stuff it into capsules
Okay, why do we say that it is not good enough, simply to buy a 99% pure Coenzyme Q10 powder and use machines to pack the dry powder into tablets or capsules? How complicated can it be?
It is quite complicated, actually. The reason that the process of the individual Coenzyme Q10 manufacturer is so important is that the Coenzyme Q10 material gets delivered in the form of dry powder crystals. The supplement manufacturer has to dissolve these Coenzyme Q10 crystals into single molecules.
Dissolving the Coenzyme Q10 crystals
This is the key point. The Coenzyme Q10 can be dissolved only at temperatures above 48 degrees Celsius. Our normal body temperature ranges from 36.5 to 37.5 degrees Celsius. Consequently, it makes no sense to send a tablet or capsule containing the Coenzyme Q10 raw material down to the stomach. Even if the stomach is marginally warmer than other body organs, the temperature in the human stomach is not sufficiently high to dissolve the Coenzyme Q10 crystals.
As Dr. Judy points out, the body cannot absorb these Coenzyme Q10 crystals. Only those manufacturers of Coenzyme Q10 supplements who have developed a special formulation process will be able to produce a Coenzyme Q10 capsule that can give a decent absorption.
Coenzyme Q10 molecules are fat-soluble molecules
The competent Coenzyme Q10 manufacturer needs to consider not only the crystal structure of the raw material but also the fat-soluble nature of the Coenzyme Q10 molecules. The raw material crystals need to be pre-heated and processed and dissolved in a solution of vegetable oils in soft-gelatin capsules in such a way that the Coenzyme Q10 crystals do not re-form inside the capsules once the solution has cooled.
Alert: if you buy a Coenzyme Q10 supplement in which the molecules have re-crystallized inside the capsules, you are not going to get the absorption that you need.
Not possible to change the Coenzyme Q10 molecules into water-soluble molecules
There are American manufacturers of Coenzyme Q10 supplements who claim to have perfected a method for changing the Coenzyme Q10 molecules from fat-soluble into water-soluble molecules. Dr. Judy tells me that changing the basic Coenzyme Q10 molecule with its fiercely hydrophobic tail to a water-soluble molecule would be such a big change that the molecule would cease to be a Coenzyme Q10 molecule.
Important to take Coenzyme Q10 with a meal
Because Coenzyme Q10 is highly fat-soluble and does not dissolve well in water, it is important to remember to take the Coenzyme Q10 capsule together with a meal that contains some oil or fat. That aids the absorption.
What are we looking for in Coenzyme Q10 production?
Here are some of the things that we, as consumers, should expect from the manufacturers of our Coenzyme Q10 capsules:
- Compliance with the requirements of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations set out by the US Food and Drug Administration
- Constant quality control of all the steps of production, packaging, and shipping
- Documentation of absorption rates published in bio-medical journals
- Documentation in bio-medical journals of statistically significant health benefits as compared to placebo
- Storage in blister packs to preserve the cleanliness of the individual capsules and to protect the contents of the capsules against contamination and oxidation
Alehagen, U., Aaseth, J., & Johansson, P. (2015). Reduced Cardiovascular Mortality 10 Years after Supplementation with Selenium and Coenzyme Q10 for Four Years: Follow-Up Results of a Prospective Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial in Elderly Citizens. Plos One, 10(12), e0141641.
Golomb, B. A., Allison, M., Koperski, S., Koslik, H. J., Devaraj, S., & Ritchie, J. B. (2014). Coenzyme Q10 benefits symptoms in Gulf War veterans: results of a randomized double-blind study. Neural Computation, 26(11), 2594-2651.
Mortensen, S. A., Rosenfeldt, F., Kumar, A., Dolliner, P., Filipiak, K. J., Pella, D., & … Littarru, G. P. (2014). The effect of coenzyme Q10 on morbidity and mortality in chronic heart failure: results from Q-SYMBIO: a randomized double-blind trial. JACC. Heart Failure, 2(6), 641-649.
Rosenfeldt, F. L., Haas, S. J., Krum, H., Hadj, A., Ng, K., Leong, J., & Watts, G. F. (2007). Coenzyme Q10 in the treatment of hypertension: a meta-analysis of the clinical trials. Journal Of Human Hypertension, 21(4), 297-306.
The information presented in this article is not intended as medical advice and should not be used as such.
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