What is co-enzyme Q10 and why is it important for our health?

What is co-enzyme Q10 and why is it important for our health?

Co-enzyme Q10, mostly shortened to Q10 is present in almost every single cell of our body. The other name for Q10 is ubiquinone, which is derived from the Latin word ubiquitous ('everywhere').

Co-enzyme Q10 is important for cellular processes in which it helps to produce energy for growth and maintenance. Co-Q10 also works as an antioxidant that protects you from the same energy-making process it’s also involved in.

While your body is capable of producting co-enzyme Q10 from food, the ability to do so, declines with age. This is why Q10 is called a conditionally essential nutrient, meaning it is required to be supplemented as we grow old.

Can co-enzyme Q10 be called vitamin Q?

If it works like a vitamin, looks like a vitamin, and acts like a vitamin, then it’s a vitamin. Or is it?

Q10 doesn’t quite check off the final box. Vitamins are compounds that have to come from your diet, the sun (vitamin D) or supplementation because you need them and can’t make them.
Because most people can make quite a lot of Q10 for a large part of their life, Q10 is not officially considered a vitamin.

However, age takes a large toll on Q10-production. As you age, your natural production of Q10 declines.
But your body needs just as much Q10 as before. This is why Q10 is a conditionally essential compound, especially for older people and those dealing with cardiovascular diseases.  That makes Q10 about as close to a vitamin as a non-vitamin can get.

What is the function of co-enzyme Q10?

As the name implies, Q10 is a so-called 'co-enzyme', which is exactly how most vitamins function in the body.
Vitamins and co-enzymes alike help spark reactions in your cells.
Coenzyme Q10 assists important reactions that help your body run smoothly.

Coenzyme Q10 has the same solubility requirements as vitamin A, D, E, and K. All those compounds require fat for absorption into your body. All these fat-soluble vitamins have a structure that is similar to that of fatty acis.
In the case of human Q10, this fatty acid tail contains 10 carb atoms.
In other mammals, the fatty acid tail tail contains nine carbons and therefore is called Q9.

Q10's molecular structure most closely resembles that of vitamin K, which explains the fairly similar sounding name of mena-quinone.
Both Q10 and vitamin K share the same core function to facilitate so-called redox reactions in your body. That means they donate and receive electrons.

Mitochondria as powerhouses for energy production using Q10

Mitochondria are the powerhouses within each body cell, because mitochondria are the location where ATP (adenosine triphosphate), your cells’ energy transporter, is generated.
This is done through a process called the electron transport chain.

The mitochondria break apart the chemical bonds in the food you eat. As these bonds break, they release electrons. There are special molecules that capture these electrons and bring them to the electron transport chain in the membrane of the mitochondria. The electron transport chain is a series of protein complexes. As the electrons are shuttled through the transport chain, they’re harnessed for their energy. But for an electron to get through all the protein complexes in the chain, it takes special molecules to shuttle them.

As the electrons are shuttled down the chain, protons are picked up along the way and passed through the mitochondrial membrane. This creates a charge gradient, or potential energy, to drive the enzyme that makes ATP. You can think of the charge gradient as being water behind a dam. As the water (protons) move through the dam (mitochondrial membrane) this potential energy is utilized to power the conversion of ADP, into your body’s cellular energy, ATP.

ATP is the energy your cells use to function, much like the gasoline you put into your car for it to run.
For ATP, co-enzyme Q10 is similar to the pump that gets the gas into your car’s tank. While it’s not the fuel itself, Q10 plays a major role in getting that fuel to your cells in a form they can utilize.

Q10: A quality antioxidant

The fact that Coenzyme Q10 is a ubiquitous molecule found everywhere in your body is good news, because it can simultaneously operate as a powerful antioxidant. Almost by definition, any molecule in your body whose job it is to give and take electrons can also act like an antioxidant.

Extra Q10 in your body which isn't yet used for energy production is shuttled off to provide antioxidant protection in various membranes in your body.

Q10 will work like any other antioxidant in the sense that it combats oxidation in your body. Q10 neutralizes free radicals by taking on electrons or giving them away, just like Q10 transports electrons for energy production.
In this way Q10 helps balance these highly reactive byproducts of different processes.

Oxidized molecules with unpaired electrons are called free radicals, because they have an odd number of electrons, making them unstable. Without an antioxidant to help free radicals get an even number of electrons, these reactive molecules build up, which increases oxidative stress.
As free radicals build up they start reacting with other molecules or structures within the cell. Left unchecked overtime, oxidative stress damages your cells, DNA, proteins, and lipids. This is known as oxidative damage and is detrimental to your health.

Coenzyme Q10 is one of the most important cellular antioxidants that helps protect your cells and body structures.
By making sure you have adequate levels of Q10 you can create a proper balance between free radicals and antioxidants. 
This balance becomes more important with age, because both oxidative stress and oxidative damage increases when we grow older.
Unfortunately, at the same time your body needs more antioxidants, your body produces less Coenzyme Q10.

Other benefits of co-enzyme Q10

Co-enzyme Q10 is found everywhere in your body, which results in health benefits in almost every body cell, usually as an antioxidant. The highest concentrations of Q10 is found in the hardest working organs: the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas. These are the organs that have the highest metabolism and energy needs.

Research shows a connection between co-enzyme Q10 and heart health. Q10 was successfully used to help people maintain their heart health. Q10 supports healthy muscle function as well as what is actually our largest organ, the skin.
Q10 also plays a role in healthy cell growth and maintenance.
Q10’s ability to shuttle electrons helps stimulate cell growth and provide sufficient amounts of energy.

How can you increase co-enzymeQ10 levels?

As your body loses its ability to maintain optimal levels of co-enzyme Q10 when we age, it is important to increase Q10-levels from diet or dietary supplements.

Q10 is present in fatty cold-water fish. Choose a fat-rich cut of fish, like salmon, herring, mackerel or sardines.
The recommendation to eat fatty fish at least twice a week isn't only to increase omega-3 intake naturally , but also because of a higher Q10-content.

Q10 is also present in other protein sources such as beef and chicken. Though gram for gram, beef delivers twice as much Q10 as chicken does.
Vegetarians don't need to despair: various nuts and seeds also provide decent amounts of Q10.
While they don’t yield as much as the fatty fish and beef, the amount nuts deliver isn’t negligible.
Maybe replace other snacks for nuts and add sesame seeds or pistachios to a salad to get more of those nutrients.

 

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