Coenzyme Q10

Touted as a wonder supplement, coenzyme Q10 is said to enhance stamina, aid weight loss, combat cancer and AIDS, and even stave off ageing.

Although these claims may be extravagant, this nutrient does show promise for heart disease, weak gums and other ailments.

What it is

Coenzyme Q10, a natural substance produced by the body, belongs to a family of compounds called quinones. When it was first isolated in 1957, scientists called it ubiquinone, because it is ubiquitous in nature.

In fact, coenzyme Q10 is found in all living creatures and is also concentrated in many foods, including nuts and oils. In the past decade, coenzyme Q10 has become one of the most popular dietary supplements around the world.

Proponents of the nutrient use it to maintain general good health, as well as to treat heart disease and a number of other serious conditions. Some clinicians believe it is so important for normal body functioning tht it should be dubbed ‘vitamin Q’.

What it does

The primary function of coenzyme Q10 is as a catalyst for metabolism – the complex chain of chemical reactions during which food is broken down into packets of energy that the body can use.

Acting in conjunction wiht enzymes (hence the name ‘coenzyme’), the compound speeds up the vital metabolic process, providing the energy that the cells need to digest food, heal wounds, maintain healthy muscles and perform countless other bodily functions. Because of the nutrient’s essential role in energy production, it’s not surprising that it is found in every cell in the body.

It’s especially abundant in the energy-intensive cells of the heart, helping this organ to beat more than 100 000 times each day. In addition, coenzyme Q10 acts as an antioxidant, much like vitamin E, helping to neutralise the cell-damaging molecules known as free radicals.


Coenzyme Q10 may play a role in preventing cancer, heart attacks and other diseases linked to free-radical damage. It’s also used as a general energy enhancer and anti-ageing supplement. Because levels of the compound diminish with age (and with certain diseases), some doctors recommend coenzyme Q10 supplementation from about the age of 40.

Major benefits

Coenzyme Q10 has generated much excitement as a possible therapy for heart disease, especially congestive heart failure or a weakened heart.

In some studies, patients with poorly functioning hearts have been found to improve greatly after adding the supplment to their conventional drugs and therapies.

Other studies have shown that people with cardiovascular disease have low levels of this substance in their hearts. Further research suggests that coenzyme Q10 may help to protect against blood clots, lower high blood pressure, diminish irregular heartbeats, treat mitral valve prolapse, lessen the symptoms of Raynaud’s disease (poor circulation in the extremities) and relieve chest pains (angina).

Additional benefits

A few small studies suggest that coenzyme Q10 may prolong survival in those with breast or prostate cancer,though results remain inconclusive. It also appears to aid healing and reduce pain and bleeding in those with gum disease, and to speed recovery following oral surgery.

The supplement shows some promise against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and fibromyalgia, and it may improve stamina in those with AIDS.

Some practitioners believe that the nutrient helps to stabilise blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

There are many other claims made for this supplement: that is slows ageing, aids weight loss, enhances athletic performance, combats chronic fatigue syndrome, relieves multiple allergies and boosts immunity. But more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of coenzyme Q10 for these and other conditions.

Common uses

  • Improves the heart and circulation in those with congestive heart failure, a weakened heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), high blood pressure, heart rhythm disorders, chest pain (angina) or Raynaud’s disease.
  • Treats gum disease and maintains healthy gums and teeth.
  • Protects the nerves and may help to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
  • May help to prevent cancer and heart disease, and play a role in slowing down age-related degenerative changes.
  • May improve the course of AIDS or cancer.


  • Capsule.
  • Softgel.
  • Tablet.
  • Liquid.

How to take it


The general dosage is 50 mcg twice a day. Higher dosages of 100 mcg twice a day may be useful for heart or circulatory disorders, or for Alzheimer’s disease and other specific complaints.

Guidelines for use

Take a supplement morning and evening, ideally with food to enhance absorption. Coenzyme Q10 should be continued long term. It may be eight weeks or longer before you notice results.

Possible side effects

Most research suggests that the supplement is harmless, even in large doses. In rare cases, it may cause upset stomach, diarrhoea, nausea or loss of appetite. But it appears to be very safe overall.


Pregnant or breast-feeding women should consult with their health care professional before using coenzyme Q10, as the nutrient has not been well studied in this group. That is not to say that it would be of value to take during these times.