Heart health is of great interest across the United States, where many people are confident they can manage certain health issues through proper nutrition. It’s no wonder, then, that Americans will spend an estimated $2.5 billion this year on dietary supplements such as Ubiquinol CoQ10 that support cardiovascular health.
Starting With the Fundamentals
To understand this nutrient, we need to start with a quick overview of enzymes.
Enzymes play important roles in our bodies – for example, they make it possible for us to digest the food we eat and unlock the energy in nutrients. Complex reactions throughout all of nature are made possible – and most efficient – because of these molecules.
But to function, enzymes need help from something called coenzymes. These natural compounds assist an enzyme in doing a certain job such as digesting carbohydrates and protein in our body, or making the energy our organs need to function.
Introducing Coenzyme Q10
There are many coenzymes. Among the most important is called Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10. This vitamin-like substance is made naturally in the body and plays a critical role in the creation of cellular energy.
It’s no surprise, then, that lots of CoQ10 is found inside the tissue of energy-demanding organs such as the heart, brain, liver and kidneys. In fact, it exists in virtually all our cells and tissues.
CoQ10 Comes in Two Very Different Forms
CoQ10 is one of America’s most recognized coenzymes. Although millions of us buy the supplement to support heart health, most don’t know there are two main forms of this vital nutrient. Each functions differently in the body.
Ubiquinone, also known as conventional CoQ10, is the most popular form of CoQ10. This is because it was the only kind of CoQ10 sold in stores until 2007, when a more advanced form of the nutrient called Ubiquinol (pronounced “you-bik-win-all”) became commercially available.
The problem with conventional CoQ10 is that your body must convert it into Ubiquinol1 (the more advanced type of CoQ10) before it can help make the cellular energy your heart and other vital organs need to function at optimal levels.
Unlike conventional CoQ10, Ubiquinol is also a strong antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals that might otherwise damage healthy cells in the body.2
Starting around the age of 30, your body has a harder time turning conventional CoQ10 into Ubiquinol CoQ10, and the entire process becomes less efficient. That is why so many “older” adults are now taking the more advanced Ubiquinol form of CoQ10.
Today, retail sales of Ubiquinol CoQ10 are growing an estimated seven times faster than those of conventional CoQ10 as the public becomes more aware of the various advantages of Ubiquinol.
Ubiquinol CoQ10: Heart Health and More
Both forms of CoQ10 have interested researchers for many years, but Ubiquinol CoQ10 has been commercially available in America for only 10 years. In that short time, more than 60 research studies have been performed into the health benefits of Ubiquinol CoQ10.
Ubiquinol CoQ10 is a vitamin-like substance that's made naturally in our bodies and plays a critical role in the creation of cellular energy. We make less of the heart-healthy nutrient starting around age 30.
Unlike some dietary supplement research, much of this research took the form of peer-reviewed human clinical studies from scientists at prestigious universities and medical schools.
This large and still growing amount of research has found Ubiquinol CoQ10:
- Supports optimal heart health 3 4 5
- Supports natural cellular energy production 6
- Helps prevent damage in the body caused by oxidative stress 7
- Replenishes CoQ10 blood levels depleted by many cholesterol medicines 8 9
Interest in the health benefits of Ubiquinol is strong. Right now, researchers from around the world are busy studying the role Ubiquinol CoQ10 may play in mitochondrial dysfunction, brain health, visual health and bone metabolism, among other areas.
A Disadvantage of Conventional CoQ10
Despite its various health benefits, conventional CoQ10 has an important disadvantage: it’s not as efficiently absorbed by the human body.
Ubiquinol CoQ10 is different. In every published comparative study to date, Ubiquinol CoQ10 was better absorbed by the body than conventional CoQ10.10 11 12 The amount your body absorbs will vary based on your age and overall health, but studies have consistently shown Ubiquinol to be the form of CoQ10 that’s easier for the body to use.
Ubiquinol CoQ10 is more readily absorbed in the intestinal tract and therefore considered more “bioavailable” than conventional CoQ10.13
This difference makes Ubiquinol quite special. When conventional CoQ10 is ingested, the body must turn it into Ubiquinol CoQ10 so it can contribute to the production of cellular energy, which our hearts and other major organs need to function at optimal levels.
But the process of turning conventional CoQ10 into Ubiquinol becomes harder and less efficient as we get older and especially after age 45. That’s a big reason why many experts encourage “older” adults who take a CoQ10 supplement to consume it as Ubiquinol.
For many people and often to their surprise, conventional CoQ10 simply does not deliver the same benefits of Ubiquinol CoQ10.
As of the time of publication, Andrew Shea is a Director of Marketing at Kaneka North America LLC, a manufacturer of CoQ10 ingredients. Drs. Barry and Funahashi are employees of Kaneka, and Dr. Schulman is a paid consultant to the company.
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2 Frei B, Kim MC, Ames BN. Ubiquinol-10 is an effective lipid-soluble antioxidant at physiological concentrations. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Jun;87(12):4879-83.
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