Overview of Coenzyme Q10.
Q10, also referred to as CoQ10
or ubiquinone, is a vitamin-like compound which is present in all
cells. It occurs naturally in the body and is found in
amounts in the mitochondria, where cellular energy is created.
CoQ10 levels are highest in the
hardest-working tissues of the body, especially the heart.
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant, that is, it helps to protect cells from damage caused by the body's own free radicals. The body produces free radicals in the normal course of energy production. However as we get older our bodies generate an excess of free radicals. This can be deleterious for individuals whose bodies are not producing enough Coenzyme Q10 and other antioxidants to control these free radicals.
Coenzyme Q10 has several different actions in the body. Its most notable effects are:
- Antioxidant - it scavenges free radicals
- Improves the efficacy of cellular energy production in the mitochondria (energy factories) of the cell
- Regulates genes concerned with energy production
- Stabilises membranes
As we age there is a decline in the amount of CoQ10 our body produces. It is not possible to get large amounts of CoQ10 from diet alone. Therefore taking a daily supplement, especially as we age, can increase cell energy levels and strengthen the body's antioxidant defence network.
Discovery of Coenzyme Q10
The discovery of coenzyme Q10 was not a simple accident but rather the result of a long train of tests by numerous researchers into the mechanisms and compounds involved in energy conversion.
Coenzyme Q10 was discovered in 1957 in the USA in beef hearts by Dr Frederick Crane and his team. A year later, Professor Folkers and co-workers at the University of Mississippi and the pharmaceutical company Merck, Sharp and Dohme identified the chemical structure and function of the new compound. This work became a lifelong passion of Folkers who organised a relentless campaign over the following 40 years to discover whether coenzyme Q10 had nutritional significance and could be used in the treatment of disease. After several false starts, the first successful use of CoQ10 was in the treatment of heart failure in 1967.
Since then, a steady accumulation of studies have explored the effects of CoQ10 in a variety of conditions such as heart disease, gum disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease, migraine headache and as a sports supplement.