Coenzyme Q10 for People Over 65 Years of Age

Sufficient intakes of Coenzyme Q10 are increasingly important as we age. Our bodies synthesize less and less Coenzyme Q10 as we progress from middle age to our senior years. One estimate is that the CoQ10 status of an 80-year-old man’s heart muscle cells will be about half of what is normal in a 20-year-old man [Alehagen 2015].

Guillermo Lopez-Lluch
Prof. Guillermo Lopez-Lluch says that older people who have more symptoms of fragility also have lower concentrations of Coenzyme Q10 their blood plasma. The study data show that this relationship is more common in women than in men.

Sub-optimal levels of Coenzyme Q10 are associated with ageing, energy insufficiency, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease [Why Humans 2022].

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Coenzyme Q10 for Longevity

Interesting statistics regarding life expectancy and longevity in the United States:

  • Individuals with no chronic conditions by age 67 years can expect to live another 22.6 years on average.
  • Individuals aged 67 years with 5 chronic conditions can expect to live 7.7 fewer additional years, on average.
  • Individuals aged 67 years with 10 or more chronic conditions can expect to live 17.6 fewer additional years, on average.
Human cells
Our cells’ production of Coenzyme Q10 declines as we get older and older. We need adequate Coenzyme Q10 in our cells to produce ATP energy, to protect against harmful free radicals, and to modulate inflammation.

These are some of the outcomes of a retrospective cohort study done by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health using the data from 1,372,272 Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries who were 67 and older [DuGoff 2014].

When the researchers talk about chronic conditions (also called co-morbidities), they are referring to such conditions as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, liver disease, and neurodegenerative diseases, among others.

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Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation for Elderly Persons

Supplementation with Coenzyme Q10 has primarily made use of the oxidized form called ubiquinone. It is the stable form of Coenzyme Q10, the form with which all the important clinical studies have been done involving elderly persons, heart failure patients, and Gulf War Illness patients [Alehagen 2013; Golomb 2014; Mortensen 2014].

Walk in autumn weather
When we reach the September of our years, our cells synthesize less and less of Coenzyme Q10, the essential bio-nutrient that is needed for ATP energy generation, for antioxidant defense against harmful free radicals, and for anti-inflammatory effects.

In study participants with low baseline selenium status, the combination of Coenzyme Q10 together with the essential trace element selenium appears to reduce the level of oxidative stress and inflammation and to delay or ameliorate the development of some age-related disorders [Aaseth 2021].

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Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation in Ageing and Disease

In the Mechanisms of Ageing and Development journal, Professor Jan Aaseth, Professor Urban Alehagen, and I have published a review of the research literature relating to Coenzyme Q10 and aging. Here, I want to summarize the main points briefly.

Professor Jan Alexander
Dr. Jan Alexander is MD, PhD, ERT, and Professor at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo. He is the co-author, together with Professor Urban Alehagen and Professor Jan Aaseth, of many articles about Coenzyme Q10 and selenium. (ERT stands for Eurotox Registered Toxicologist.)

What is Coenzyme Q10 and Why is it Important?

Coenzyme Q10 is a substance with vitamin-like effects on our health; however, our cells can synthesize Coenzyme Q10, so, by definition, it is not a vitamin. Among its important health-promoting effects are the following:

  • an essential component in the process of ATP energy generation
  • an important fat-soluble antioxidant in cellular membranes and lipoproteins
  • an anti-inflammatory agent

What Causes Sub-Optimal Coenzyme Q10 Levels?

Once we have passed our 20s, our cells’ ability to synthesize Coenzyme Q10 declines and decreases steadily with increasing age [Kalén 1989]. It is reasonable to think that most individuals in middle age and in their senior years might benefit from a CoQ10 supplement.

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CoQ10 and Aging – A New Book

Professor Lopez-Lluch and Professor Littarru
Professor Guillermo López-Lluch (left), editor of the book Coenzyme Q and Aging, 2020, published by Springer Nature. ISBN: 978-3030456412.

Coenzyme Q10 is important to our understanding of the progression of the aging process and to our understanding of aging-related diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, and kidney diseases [López-Lluch 2020].

This is the message of a 369-page book entitled Coenzyme Q in Aging. The book is edited by Professor Guillermo López-Lluch, Pablo de Olavide University, Sevilla, Spain. It is dedicated to the memory of Professor Fred L. Crane (December 3, 1925 – August 11, 2016), who first discovered Coenzyme Q10, one of the most important molecules in humans [López-Lluch 2020].

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Coenzyme Q10 and NADH and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

DNA strand
Basically, our efforts to avoid or delay the onset of the various pathologies associated with increasing age involve managing the effects of cellular bio-energetic disturbances, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Combined supplementation with Coenzyme Q10 and NADH may be a beneficial anti-ageing treatment.

Most recently, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+ in its oxidized form and NADH in its reduced form) has been getting much attention as a possible anti-ageing substance.

  • Like Coenzyme Q10, NAD+/NADH is a coenzyme that is present in nearly all human cells.
  • Like Coenzyme Q10, NAD+/NADH exists in both an oxidized form and a reduced form.
  • Like Coenzyme Q10, NAD+/NADH is needed for the cellular process of producing ATP energy from the food that we eat.
  • Like Coenzyme Q10, NAD+/NADH has an antioxidant function in the cells protecting against the damage caused by oxidative stress.
  • Like Coenzyme Q10, NAD+/NADH is essential for life.  Without NAD+/NADH, the cells will not produce energy and will die.
  • Like Coenzyme Q10, NAD+/NADH levels decrease as we get older.

Coenzyme Q10 and NAD+/NADH and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The results of a 2015 Spanish study indicate that Coenzyme Q10 and NADH supplementation could be a beneficial treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome and other chronic fatiguing illnesses for three reasons [Castro-Marrero]:

  • Coenzyme Q10 and NADH are essential co-factors in the process of cellular bio-energetics; they can boost mitochondrial function.
  • Coenzyme Q10 and NADH are powerful free radical scavengers that mitigate lipid peroxidation and DNA damage caused by oxidative stress.
  • Coenzyme Q10 and NADH supplementation can reduce the extent of oxidative damage and mitochondrial dysfunction associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.

In sum, oral CoQ10 plus NADH supplementation seems to be a safe and effective therapy to reduce fatigue, restore mitochondrial function and bio-energetic metabolism, and ameliorate oxidative damage in chronic fatigue syndrome [Castro-Marrero].

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Coenzyme Q10 and healthy ageing

Physical exercise combined with a Mediterranean diet and Coenzyme Q10 supplementation should improve our chances for healthy ageing and for the prevention of chronic oxidative stress leading to neurodegenerative disease and heart disease.

There is a significant reduction in the rate of Coenzyme Q10 bio-synthesis during the ageing process and in ageing-related diseases.  Mice studies have given us reason to believe that there is a direct relationship between a longer and healthier life and Coenzyme Q10 function in the mitochondria of the cells [Hernandez-Camacho 2018].  

Human studies of Coenzyme Q10 status and healthy ageing

Professor Alehagen’s KiSel-10 study:

Four years of daily supplementation with 200 milligrams of Coenzyme Q10 and 200 micrograms of high-selenium yeast resulted in significant health benefits for elderly community-living study participants as compared to placebo supplementation [Johansson 2015]:

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Coenzyme Q10 and exercise and ageing

Coenzyme Q10 supplementation and exercise confer significant heart health benefits and anti-ageing benefits.  The exercise can be aerobic exercise or strength training or both.  The Coenzyme Q10 supplement you choose should be a supplement with well-documented absorption and efficacy.

The biggest difference in elderly (70+) men and women still living at home and still relatively healthy is the extent to which they exercise.  Among elderly adults of the same socioeconomic status, nutrition and lifestyle do not vary much.  Exercise levels do vary considerably.

With the variations in exercise level come variations in ageing.  The question is, what is the role of Coenzyme Q10 status in the elderly and the rate at which they age?

The differences in ageing – manifested in differences in functional capacity, exercise status, and body weight — are connected to Coenzyme Q10 plasma levels and to Coenzyme Q10/cholesterol ratios in plasma.

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Coenzyme Q10 for brain and muscle tissue

Supplementation with Coenzyme Q10 can increase brain mitochondrial concentrations and increase neuro-protective effects.   In addition to providing antioxidant defense against free radical damage, Coenzyme Q10 is essential for the process of cellular energy production.

So, it seems clear that Coenzyme Q10 supplementation is not needed when we are young and healthy, in our teenage years and in our early 20’s.  But … definitely … from our 20s onward, and increasingly as we get older, we need a well-formulated daily Coenzyme Q10 (preferably taken twice daily with meals) … or we need to take nutritional supplements that will enhance our bodies’ bio-synthesis of Coenzyme Q10.  Or both.

Because there is no doubt that we need to maintain functional levels of Coenzyme Q10 in the cell membranes and in the mitochondria, particularly in the brain and muscle tissue.  Coenzyme Q10 is essential in the process of cellular ATP energy production, and Coenzyme Q10 is the most important fat-soluble antioxidant protector of the cells [Littarru].

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Coenzyme Q10 and the energy starved heart

The number of bean-shaped mitochondria in our cells varies according to the energy needs of the various organs. The cells in organs with high energy needs, e.g. the heart, the liver, the skeletal muscle, will have greater numbers of mitochondria than will the cells of less active organs, e.g. the skin.  Adequate supply of Coenzyme Q10 is necessary to keep the mitochondria actively producing ATP molecules.

Cellular respiration is the name for the process by which the ATP molecules are produced inside the mitochondria in our cells.  Coenzyme Q10 in its oxidized form is an essential component in this process of energy production.

Fewer Coenzyme Q10 molecules in the mitochondria inevitably mean less ATP energy production.  Fewer ATP molecules mean less energy for our cells. 

Heart muscle cells with low Coenzyme Q10 concentrations and with fewer ATP molecules produced make for an energy starved heart.

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