Undocumented Claims for Coenzyme Q10 Absorption and Efficacy in the US Market

Back cover of Dr. Judy's book An Insider's Guide to Coenzyme Q10
In his 2018 book, An Insider’s Guide to Coenzyme Q10, Dr. William Judy of SIBR Research summarizes the results of clinical studies using ubiquinone CoQ10 supplements. He also includes anecdotes about the use of CoQ10 supplements. The book is available from amazon.com.

Even if they are made from the same raw material, the CoQ10 products on the US retail market are very diverse in terms of their absorption and in terms of their health effects. 

We, as consumers, need to see documentation, preferably in peer-reviewed scientific journals, for the absorption and efficacy of the CoQ10 product we buy.

The form of the retail Coenzyme Q10 product can be different (either the ubiquinone form or the ubiquinol form), and the formulation can be different (different carrier oils and different heating and cooling processes).

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Coenzyme Q10 Synergists

Professor Urban Alehagen
Professor Urban Alehagen, the lead researcher on the KiSel-10 Study, has emphasized the clinical significance of daily supplementation with both Coenzyme Q10 and high-selenium yeast.  Both supplements have a protective antioxidant role in the prevention of heart disease.

In the previous article on this site, we discussed substances that can counteract or inhibit the bio-synthesis or absorption or efficacy of Coenzyme Q10.  Today we want to look at substances that might actually boost the bio-synthesis or absorption or efficacy of Coenzyme Q10.

Among the substances we want to consider are the following nutritional supplements:

  • carnitine
  • NADH
  • PQQ
  • riboflavin
  • selenium

High-Selenium Yeast Supplements and Coenzyme Q10

Professor Urban Alehagen writes that a deficiency of selenium may restrict the cells’ ability to get optimal concentrations of Coenzyme Q10.  Moreover, the cells are dependent upon adequate concentrations of Coenzyme Q10 to achieve optimal function of selenium in the body. There seems to be a special interrelationship between Coenzyme Q10 and selenium that can be exploited clinically [Alehagen & Aaseth].

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Coenzyme Q10 Antagonists and Inhibitors

Dr. Judy's book: An Insider's Guide to Coenzyme Q10.
Dr. William Judy, founder and president of SIBR Research, advises against taking a vitamin C supplement within an hour of taking a CoQ10 capsule. In his book, Insider’s Guide to Coenzyme Q10, Dr. Judy summarizes the CoQ10 clinical research results. The book is available from amazon.com.

Human adults’ bio-synthesis of the essential bio-nutrient Coenzyme Q10 declines with increasing age [Kalén].  That is unfortunate.

We humans need sufficient quantities of Coenzyme Q10 for various biological functions:

  • cellular production of ATP energy
  • antioxidant protection of the cells against oxidative damage
  • maintenance of endothelial function in blood vessels
  • anti-inflammatory effects

Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation and Beyond

We can take a daily Coenzyme Q10 supplement, of course, and we should.  However, we should be very careful.

Commercially available CoQ10 supplements vary considerably in their formulation and in their absorption and bio-availability.  A cheap 30-cents-per day CoQ10 supplement at the supermarket or drugstore is most likely a poorly absorbed and ineffective supplement.

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Coenzyme Q10 Crystals and Coenzyme Q10 Absorption

The Coenzyme Q10 raw material is a yellow or orange crystalline powder produced by a yeast fermentation extraction process. The CoQ10 crystals are fat-soluble. They are practically insoluble in water, and any attempt to make them water-soluble will rob them of their CoQ10 characteristics. Coenzyme Q10 is soluble in lipids, but keeping the Coenzyme Q10 molecules from re-crystallizing inside the supplement capsules is difficult.  And humans cannot absorb CoQ10 crystals, only single CoQ10 molecules.

Absorption of the Coenzyme Q10 in commercial nutritional supplements varies considerably.  The dissolution of the CoQ10 crystals and the absorption of the Coenzyme Q10 molecules depend upon the composition of the oil matrix and the formulation of the CoQ10 nutritional supplement.  The manufacturer of a CoQ10 supplement must deal with raw material that is very difficult to work with.

Coenzyme Q10 Soluble in Lipids at Higher Temperatures

Coenzyme Q10 is practically insoluble in water but is soluble in lipids; however, no individual lipids have been found in which 100 milligrams of Coenzyme Q10 can be dissolved so that the dissolved Coenzyme Q10 molecules inside the nutritional supplement capsules will not re-crystallize at normal storage temperatures: typically, between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Coenzyme Q10 Absorption, Efficacy, and Safety

A significant reduction in the rate of CoQ10 biosynthesis has been associated with the aging process and aging-related diseases [Hernandez-Camacho 2018]. It is not possible to make up for this loss of Coenzyme Q10 by eating more selectively. Supplementation with a well-formulated CoQ10 preparation is necessary. (Graph compliments of SIBR Research Institute)
The active substance in the best Coenzyme Q10 nutritional supplements is a natural substance extracted from a yeast fermentation process; it is not a synthetic substance.

The CoQ10 molecules in the best nutritional supplements are the same molecules as the CoQ10 molecules synthesized inside the mitochondria in human cells.

Absorption and Bio-availability of Coenzyme Q10

Similar to vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10 in food and in nutritional supplements has a low absorption and bio-availability.  In the case of Coenzyme Q10, the difficult absorption is attributed to the relatively large size and the lipid soluble nature of the CoQ10 molecules.

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WholeFoods Magazine Interview about Coenzyme Q10

Dr. Richard Passwater’s interviews with Dr. William Judy (pictured here) in the WholeFoods Magazine are fascinating reading about the absorption and clinical effects of Coenzyme Q10.

In the February and March 2019 issues of WholeFoods Magazine, Dr. Richard Passwater has published part 1 and part 2 of his interview with Dr. William Judy. These interviews are must reading [Passwater 2019].

The Main Coenzyme Q10 Points in the Dr. Passwater – Dr. Judy Interviews

Dr. Passwater’s interviews with Dr. Judy focus on current issues in CoQ10 research. These issues are of interest to all of us who want to maintain good heart health.

Coenzyme Q10 Molecules are Redox Molecules With Oxidized and Reduced Forms

Coenzyme Q10 molecules are redox molecules with an oxidized form of Coenzyme Q10 called ubiquinone, an intermediate partially reduced form called ubisemiquinone, and a reduced form called ubiquinol. The ubiquinone and ubiquinol forms are both used in Coenzyme Q10 supplements. Both forms are active and important forms.

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Absorption and Transport of Coenzyme Q10

Oxidation. We know it from rusting cars and rancid butter. It is the loss of electrons in chemical reactions. The opposite process is called reduction. Reduction is the gain of electrons. Coenzyme Q10 molecules are redox molecules. That means, we can take CoQ10 supplements in their oxidized form, ubiquinone, and be confident that it will be converted to the reduced form, ubiquinol, which is the form that acts as an antioxidant and protects against the oxidation of cells and fats and proteins and DNA.

Coenzyme Q10 supplements are not all the same.  Some give a much better absorption than others. To get real value for the money we spend on CoQ10 supplements, we need to seek out and buy a product with documented good absorption.

A randomized controlled study done in 2018 has shown that a patented ubiquinone Coenzyme Q10 supplement gives significantly better absorption than a patented ubiquinol supplement [Lopez-Lluch 2018].

Dissolving Coenzyme Q10 crystals to single molecules

The Coenzyme Q10 raw material is a crystalline powder.  These crystals cannot diffuse into the intestinal absorption cells.  The crystals will pass right through the intestinal tract and will be eliminated in the feces.

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Choosing a ubiquinone Coenzyme Q10 supplement

Professor Guillermo Lopez-Lluch and a research team tested seven different CoQ10 supplement formulations containing 100 mg of CoQ10 in 14 young, healthy individuals. The researchers measured CoQ10 bio-availability as area under the curve of plasma CoQ10 levels over 48 hours after the ingestion of a single dose. They repeated the measurements in the same group of 14 volunteers in a double-blind crossover design with a minimum of 4-week washout between intakes. The research results showed that there were statistically significant variations in the bio-availability of the CoQ10 formulations. The best absorbed CoQ10 formulation was a formulation containing ubiquinone (oxidized CoQ10) dissolved in a soy oil matrix.

The first-ever head-to-head comparative bio-availability study has shown that a patented ubiquinone Coenzyme Q10 preparation gives a significantly better absorption and bio-availability than a patented ubiquinol product.

That is what happened in the double-blind, cross-over study conducted by researchers at the Pablo de Olavide University in Sevilla, Spain, in 2018 [Lopez-Lluch 2019].  

This is important for several reasons:

Until this study in 2018, there had never been a head-to-head comparison study of the bio-availability of a ubiquinone CoQ10 supplement and a ubiquinol supplement [Judy 2018].

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Not all Coenzyme Q10 supplements are the same

Dr. William V. Judy, founder and president of SIBR Research Institute, has done studies showing that oral ubiquinol is converted to ubiquinone prior to its absorption in the small intestines. In the lymph, it is converted back to the ubiquinol form. It makes sense that the CoQ10 is primarily in the ubiquinol form in the lymph and blood because, there, the need for Coenzyme Q10’s antioxidant properties is greater than the need for the bio-energetics function of the ubiquinone form.

A well-formulated ubiquinone Coenzyme Q10 supplement was absorbed significantly better than a well-formulated ubiquinol supplement.  This is one of the take-home messages from a recent carefully designed Spanish university study [Lopez-Lluch 2018].

Remember: Ubiquinol supplements are notoriously difficult to work with.  As an antioxidant posed to give up its two extra electrons, ubiquinol is by its very nature unstable.  Often, the ubiquinol is oxidized (gives up its electrons) while still in the soft-gel capsule.

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Coenzyme Q10: a new comparative bio-availability study

Professor Guillermo López-Lluch listens to a comment from professor emeritus Gian Paolo Littarru at the 9th conference of the International Coenzyme Q10 Association in New York, June 24, 2018.

Arguably, the most exciting Coenzyme Q10 research results of 2018 are the results of a comparative bio-availability study done at the Pablo de Olavide University in Sevilla, Spain.  The researchers’ carefully designed study demonstrates that the uptake of Coenzyme Q10 from oral supplements depends primarily on two factors [López-Lluch 2018]:

***The composition and formulation of the supplement, especially the types of substances used to dissolve the Coenzyme Q10 raw material in the supplement capsules

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