As we age our CoQ10 levels decrease, and finding a bioavailable supplement can be challenging since this nutrient has certain specific requirements for proper assimilation.
What is CoQ10?
From a technical perspective, the nutrient Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10, or ubiquinone) “is an electron carrier of the mitochondrial respiratory chain (electron transport chain) with antioxidant properties”.
From the layman’s perspective, CoQ10 is something many of us take to protect our hearts and to keep our blood pressure stable, or to compensate for being on statin drugs. However, when we appreciate that CoQ10 is a family of fat-soluble substances ubiquitous in animals (thus the name ubiquinone), and found in all our respiring cells (primarily in the mitochondria), we begin to appreciate that this essential nutrient may have many more benefits than the layman may assume.
Benefits of CoQ10
In those mitochondrial cells, CoQ10 “participates in aerobic cellular respiration, which generates energy in the form of ATP. Ninety-five percent of the human body’s energy is generated this way. Organs with the highest energy requirements—such as the heart, liver, and kidney—have the highest CoQ10 concentrations”. (Source)
The presence of CoQ10 in mitochondrial cells (and in other cellular membranes, and in blood plasma), along with its powerful antioxidant properties, explains why clinical studies have verified its necessity for preventing a host of diseases. For example, “diabetes, cancer, fibromyalgia, muscular and cardiovascular diseases have been associated with low CoQ10 levels”. More recently, studies have discovered that CoQ10 also “affects expression of genes involved in human cell signaling, metabolism and transport”.
If all that weren’t enough, studies are continually finding new applications for this cellular powerhouse.
- “Twelve weeks treatment with ubiquinone improves clinical outcomes and nerve conduction parameters of diabetic polyneuropathy.” (Source) (Polyneuropathy is the simultaneous malfunction of many peripheral nerves throughout the body.)
- “Alterations of CoQ10 content were also shown in conditions associated with male infertility…and the administration of CoQ10 may result in improvement in sperm function.” (Source)
- “CoQ10 and its analogue, idebenone, have been widely used in the treatment of neurodegenerative and neuromuscular disorders. These compounds could potentially play a role in the treatment of mitochondrial disorders, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Friedreich’s ataxia, and other conditions which have been linked to mitochondrial dysfunction.” (Source)
As mentioned above, our CoQ10 levels decline with age, but levels can also be reduced to the point where they are implicated in disease states by genetic malfunctions, cancer, mitochondrial diseases, and states of extreme oxidative stress. (And as a byproduct of using cholesterol-reducing statin drugs.)
Ubiquinone vs Ubiquinol
Many consumers have been confused by the recent entrance into the marketplace of a new form of CoQ10, known as ubiquinol. However, ubiquinol is not new to your body. It is in fact a downstream biochemical aspect of ubiquinone. “Ubiquinone is reduced to ubiquinol and redistributed into lipoproteins, possibly to protect them from oxidation.”
These two forms of CoQ10 interconvert into one another in the body depending on their needed function, and ultimately their physical properties are very similar. The price however, is not. Those marketing ubiquinol maintain that as we age we lose the ability to convert ubiquinone into ubiquinol, and thus we should pay the extra for the ubiquinol form if we are over 40 years old. But, does this have any basis in science?
The human body converts CoQ10 between these two forms readily, and in fact “ubiquinol instantaneously turns into ubiquinone once it enters the stomach and is absorbed as such. Once absorbed across the intestine, ubiquinone is immediately converted to ubiquinol in the blood in order to act as an antioxidant. However, when CoQ10 is being used to produce energy in the mitochondria, ubiquinone is the form in demand.” (Source)
Also keep in mind, over decades there have been thousands of clinical trials conducted with ubiquinone, compared to very few done with ubiquinol. Indeed, those who maintain that ubiquinol is more bioavailable, have limited research to back up that claim. There is one study of older men, done in 2018, in which two-week supplementation with ubiquinol resulted in enhanced CoQ10 activity when compared to ubiquinone supplementation. However, that research is countered by more than one study which found the opposite.
For example, a 2020 study found that “there is no statistically significant difference in bioavailability between ubiquinol and ubiquinone. Even when consumed as ubiquinone, CoQ10 appeared in the blood almost exclusively as ubiquinol, indicating that the body is capable of converting the coenzyme into its most effective form”. (Source)
“And another study from 2019 suggested that the type of supplement actually matters more than the form of CoQ10 for bioavailability. After testing seven different supplements, researchers found that soft-gel capsules containing either ubiquinone or ubiquinol were most effective.” (Source)
Taking these studies into account, there is no strong evidence to suggest ubiquinol is superior to ubiquinone, when taken in supplement form. Indeed, as the above study points out, absorption is dependent on CoQ10 being solubilized, and properly processed in the body, regardless of its form.
We have known for some time now that CoQ10 is best absorbed when it is in an oil base, in a softgel capsule, as opposed to in a tablet, or powder in a capsule form. This is because the human body cannot absorb CoQ10 in a crystalline form (powder/tablet) as it has a melting temperature of 10 degrees C above body temperature (thus, plain powder absorbs at a rate of 1%).
Ultimately, the critical part of CoQ10 absorption is that it must already be dissolved, and have lipids and essential fatty acids around it, to assist in its transfer across the intestinal tract. This also means that, aside from C0Q10 being in a matrix of fat, one must also ingest it at a meal containing fat. When we are chewing fat at a meal, the body releases those enzymes required for the proper digestion and assimilation of fat-soluble nutrients.
This also holds true for the other fat-soluble nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E, K, and Omega 3 fatty acids. However, the exemption to taking these nutrients at a meal with fat, is if they are in liquid form. In this case, the fatty nutrient enters the mouth in the form of an oil or fat, and the body receives the signal that something fat-based is coming down, releasing the appropriate enzymes for optimal digestion.
But, what is even better than taking a liquid form of CoQ10, would be the ultimate fat-based delivery system: liposomal. In the case of liposomal CoQ10, not only is the nutrient in a liquid fat-based medium, it is also protected against damage from stomach acid, and what is even better, it is carried directly into the cells. Exactly where CoQ10 belongs.
What Does Liposomal Mean?
Liposomal technology was pioneered for pharmaceutical drugs, and the improved therapeutic value and greatly increased delivery of liposome-encapsulated drugs and nutrients has been consistently validated scientifically. Until recently, liposomes were used exclusively by the drug industry, but now liposomes are beginning to be used for the specific oral delivery of certain dietary and nutritional supplements.
Currently, liposomes are believed to be the most bioavailable oral way to deliver nutrients to the body, and they are especially effective for herbs and nutrients that are poorly absorbed, and/or easily damaged by the digestive system.
Making a liposome starts with liquid micro particles of the material one wishes to use, in this case curcuminoids and resveratrol, which are then inserted into phosphatidylcholine, which is a fat-soluble medium. This essentially creates micro-bubbles (just a few millionths of an inch in diameter), which are capable of entering through the gut lining without being digested, or damaged by harsh stomach acids.
These bubbles then travel through the bloodstream and are absorbed as needed by various cells in the body. Because the liposomes are made with similar material as the cells are (phosphatidylcholine is a phospholipid, which is a component of all cell membranes) the nutrients that they carry are easily delivered directly into the cell.
NutriStart Liposomal CoQ10
Creating liposomes is an expensive and time consuming process, which is why such products cost more than simple encapsulated drugs or nutrients, and why few companies produce true liposomal products. NutriStart’s Liposomal CoQ10 product is manufactured by liposomal experts, using their proprietary Cold Structure TechnologyTM. This means that the product was never exposed to high temperatures or pressure, which could damage delicate nutrients.
NutriStart’s Liposomal CoQ10 is a hypoallergenic product tested and proven free of gluten, soy and GMOs. Furthermore, the natural flavors are fruit and berry extracts and contain no MSG.