Coenzyme Q10 was first extracted from beef heart mitochondria. (Photo by Hamed Masoumi)
Do you know which form of coenzyme Q10 you are or should be taking? If not, read on.
If you've ever taken CoQ10 as a supplement (and if you haven't, see my previous blog posts here and here to see whether you should), you may have noticed that different names are used: sometimes the label says ubiquinone, other times it says ubiquinol. A lot of times it simply says coenzyme Q10, which can make things even more confusing.
So what is the difference between the three? Well, in actuality there are only two real choices: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Both are forms of coenzyme Q10, which is a general term that encompasses both ubiquinone and ubiquinol (the name "ubiquinone" means "the ubiquitous quinone", by the way).
Ubiquinone is the oxidized form of CoQ10 and is the more common form of commercially available CoQ10. It has been around for ages, and if you've ever bought one of the cheaper CoQ10 supplements, it has most likely been in the oxidized form. If the label doesn't specifically mention which form of CoQ10 the product contains, it's very probably ubiquinone.
This is because ubiquinol, the reduced form of CoQ10, is relatively new and more expensive to produce - so when the supplement does contain ubiquinol, the manufacturer is quick to point it out in big letters. This form of CoQ10 is the antioxidant form which neutralizes free radicals and decreases cellular damage. Ubiquinone does not have this antioxidant effect.
Since the body converts ubiquinone into ubiquinol, there is an extra step involved, and not all of the ingested ubiquinone gets converted into ubiquinol. In healthy people, over 90% of the CoQ10 in the blood is in the form of ubiquinol, but as you get older, both the total level of coenzyme Q10 and the body's ability to turn it into ubiquinol decline.
Note that this doesn't mean that taking ubiquinone is ineffective; all it means is that taking ubiquinol is more effective. If you are in your twenties or thirties, your body can probably convert much of the ubiquinone into ubiquinol, which means that you can save money and get the cheaper form (then again, this also means that you probably don't need supplemental CoQ10 in the first place). If, on the other hand, you are over forty or concerned about your heart health, it may be worthwhile to go for the ubiquinol.
So how much ubiquinone is pure ubiquinol equal to? According to Kaneka, apparently the only manufacturer of ubiquinol, ubiquinol is up to six times as effective as ubiquinone in increasing blood levels of ubiquinol. So to get the same effect, you could take one sixth of the amount as ubiquinol compared to ubiquinone.
As I've mentioned, I've been taking 200 mg of CoQ10 - the ubiquinone form - for some months now to see whether it has a notable effect on, well, anything. I'm down to the last few softgels, and so far I haven't noticed any difference in things like energy level or exercise performance. As CoQ10, regardless of the form, is not one of the cheapest supplements, I don't think I'm going to order another batch just yet. At this age (mid-twenties), my body should be able to convert the necessary ubiquinol from food. If I were approaching forty, however, I would compare the prices between ubiquinone and ubiquinol to see which one proves more cost-effective.
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