Sold on Cellular Energy


When it comes to improving energy, dietary supplements tend to work in a familiar home: the mitochondrion. The so-called powerhouse of human cells is where the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) cycle occurs; without it, we would not convert food into energy, and our muscles and organs would not function properly.

When it comes to improving energy, dietary supplements tend to work in a familiar home: the mitochondrion. The so-called powerhouse of human cells is where the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) cycle occurs; without it, we would not convert food into energy, and our muscles and organs would not function properly.

Over the last several decades, research has been mounting on one compound directly involved in (and required of) ATP, wherever it occurs: coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). According to the market research firm SPINS (Schaumburg, IL), consumer interest in this ingredient is rising, too. SPINS reports that sales of CoQ10 supplements rose nearly 10% last year, totaling almost $52 million at conventional and natural store channels.

Scott Steinford, president of ZMC-USA (The Woodlands, TX), which offers CoQ10 in powders for capsules, tablets, food, and beverages, says that physicians could be the ones to thank for the modest CoQ10 boom. "Messages behind CoQ10 are increasingly being supported by physicians as the benefits of CoQ10 are being discovered by an increasingly accepting physician community," says Steinford.

Let's check out some areas where CoQ10 is gaining traction.


What we know is that CoQ10 is present throughout the human body (hence its other name, ubiquinone). And if that presence creates cellular energy, you better believe there will be interest in the athletic realm.

Logically speaking, if the body is ramped with ATP, its muscles will be able to ward off exhaustion and continue operating. And so continues CoQ10 athletic research.

Results of a few recent studies support the hypothesis that CoQ10 could aid physical exercise. A federally funded Japanese study, published in the journal Nutrition in 2008, tested the effects of oral CoQ10 supplementation (300 or 100 mg) against placebo in 17 healthy subjects for eight days during intense exercise (fixed workloads on bicycle ergometers). The result? Researchers concluded that 300 mg of CoQ10 "improved subjective fatigue sensation and physical performance…and might prevent unfavorable conditions as a result of physical fatigue."

Later in 2008, the British Journal of Nutrition published a study in which 18 male kendo athletes were assigned 300 mg of CoQ10 or placebo for 20 days prior to workouts. Higher serum creatine kinase activity and myoglobin (which provides the body with oxygen reserves needed during intense physical workouts) from CoQ10 supplementation led researchers to conclude that such results "...indicate that CoQ10 supplementation reduced exercise-induced muscle injury in athletes..."

In a randomized, double-blind, crossover, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research this January, 15 healthy men were given 100 mg of CoQ10 or placebo daily for two eight-week periods. Subjects were assigned to perform three sets of five Wingate exercise tests each day, and mean power increased on the final sets for CoQ10 patients. Another positive sign for CoQ10 bettering athletes.


Current research surrounding Rhodiolarosea may bring the herb into the energy spotlight. Under the brand name Rhodiolife, PL Thomas (Morristown, NJ) is marketing a rhodiola extract as a "fast-acting adaptogen" that provides non-specific responses to stress signals in the human body. When the body feels stress and attempts to resist stress symptoms, energy can be exhausted.

Early research on Rhodiolife concludes that it prevented ATP declines in rats after exhaustive exercise and alleviated C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) in humans, compared to placebo.

A clinical study published in Advances in Therapy in 2007 found that long-term supplementation with Rhodiola rosea by 120 adults for 12 weeks produced zero adverse health events.


While CoQ10's effect on exercise performance in healthy humans still warrants further large-scale research, the ingredient's relationship to unhealthy individuals is also interesting-and perhaps more conclusive.

Steve Holtby, president and CEO of Soft Gel Technologies (Los Angeles), says that one reason his company offers upwards of 30 different CoQ10 products is because human deficiency of CoQ10 has become a major concern.

"Research now shows that aging; certain medications, such as statin drugs; and certain disease states can deplete CoQ10 levels in the body," says Holtby. "Therefore, for many people, supplementation is needed to replenish CoQ10 stores to normal levels."

A great deal of clinical research has confirmed this theory. In a study published in the Archives of Neurology in 2004, researchers measured CoQ10 levels in 34 patients qualified for statin treatment. After just 30 days, noticeable drops in CoQ10 were recorded in patients (from a starting mean of 1.26 µg/ml to 0.62 µg/ml). Researchers even stated that a significant drop was observed in patients as early as 14 days into the observations. This is because CoQ10 shares a pathway with cholesterol.

Expect CoQ10 deficiency to remain a vital issue for statin patients, as several ongoing clinical studies are further investigating the relationship between CoQ10 and the cholesterol-lowering drugs. Hitting on the energy idea, one theory still being researched is that the adverse muscular events commonly associated with statin use may be equally related to CoQ10 depletion. Theoretically, human deficiency of CoQ10 would cause ATP depletions, which can create chronic muscle pain along with a host of other symptoms, including tiredness, fatigue, and cognitive dysfunctions.

Cardiovascular Maintenance

CoQ10 happens to have more to do with the heart than just statin treatment. "The concentration of CoQ10 is highest in the heart, where the requirement for energy production is the greatest," says Kaori Dadgostar, PhD, technical specialist for Jarrow Formulas (Los Angeles, CA). But while CoQ10 helps keep the heart pumping, Dadgostar says it goes further.

"CoQ10 is also a potent antioxidant that fights against free radicals," she says. "CoQ10 can not only reduce circulating free radicals, but can also help regenerate other antioxidants as well as protect cells from the pro-oxidative activity of excess vitamins and other harmful molecules."

Oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is what enables bad cholesterol to cling to the arteries, causing cardiac disease. The relationship between CoQ10 and cardiac disease has been seen as significant in large-scale studies for decades. Most recently, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology published a New Zealand study in which CoQ10 and LDL cholesterol levels were assessed in 236 patients with congestive heart disease. After an average of 2.7 years of follow up, CoQ10 levels turned out to be a mean of 20% higher in survivors (n=29) than nonsurvivors (n=205). The study was funded by the New Zealand Heart Foundation.

Formulating with Supplements

A mature CoQ10 market offers more options than other dietary supplements. For starters, CoQ10 is popping up in dual formulations for energy and cardiovascular functions. Jarrow Formulas' line of CoQ10 products (above) includes an L-carnitine and CoQ10 combo (for heart health) and a Ribose and CoQ10 combo (for mitochondrial energy). Cinnamon and CoQ10 capsules, available from NBTY Capsuleworks (Ronkonkoma, NY), are another heart-healthy option.

Let's not forget that, as an antioxidant, CoQ10 is being marketed as a cosmeceutical, too. DSM Nutritional Products (Parsippany, NJ) has been harnessing CoQ10 cosmetics with its All-Q plus brand since 2005. The company states that CoQ10 can smooth the skin and reduce wrinkles. Furthermore, UV damage from the sun has been shown to deplete skin CoQ10 levels, so supplementation can minimize this CoQ10 loss.

Checking out CoQ10 alone, there are still two options-ubiquinone or ubiquinol. "Many associate CoQ10 with energy due to its role in cellular respiration," says Holtby of Soft Gel Technologies. "However, in order for the CoQ10 to perform its function, the nutrient must first be converted into ubiquinol, its active antioxidant form. While most young and healthy people are able to efficiently metabolize CoQ10 (ubiquinone) and convert it to ubiquinol, aging and certain disease states decrease the body's production of CoQ10 as well as its ability to convert the substance."

Capitalizing on the CoQ10 efficiency concept is Kyowa Hakko U.S.A, one of the few companies which exclusively sells the reduced ubiquinol form of CoQ10.


Correction:In this article, Kyowa Hakko USA was listed as a supplier of ubiquinol coenzyme Q10. In fact, Kaneka Nutrients LP (Pasadena, TX) is the only manufacturer of ubiquinol, and every ubiquinol supplement sold on the market will contain KanekaQH ubiquinol. Nutritional Outlook apologizes for the error.

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