I’ve often said if I was stranded on an island and could have just one supplement with me, it would be coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Hands down, it is one of the most important nutrients for promoting heart health. This supplement has proven benefits for hypertension, coronary artery disease, heart failure, arrhythmias, and other cardiovascular disorders.
Now, the research on CoQ10 has exploded, revealing its many benefits that go well beyond heart health—and new studies are being released all the time. Supplemental CoQ10 can help prevent or treat a wide variety of conditions, ranging from fatigue and muscle pain to diabetes and liver disease. Some say it may even slow aging.
Why CoQ10 Is So Versatile
How can one nutrient have such broad benefits? When you understand CoQ10’s essential functions, it becomes obvious.
- Cellular energy production: CoQ10 plays a central role in energy production in the mitochondria, the tiny energy factories in each of your cells. It’s the catalyst that sparks the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the form of energy your cells use to fuel your body. Without adequate CoQ10, ATP production lags—and without enough energy, you’re running on weak batteries.
- Antioxidant protection: CoQ10 is a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant that protects mitochondrial membranes and DNA by neutralizing free radicals formed during ATP production. It also protects and stabilizes lipoproteins and cell membranes.
- Inflammation suppression: CoQ10 helps curb inflammation, which often goes hand in hand with oxidative stress and is an underlying factor in many degenerative diseases.
These basic functions, which are occurring 24/7 in every cell in your body, are fundamental to energy production, and energy is fundamental to life. That’s why disturbances in CoQ10 and mitochondrial dysfunction are involved in so many diseases—and why increasing levels with supplemental CoQ10 has so many potential benefits.
Increases Energy, Reduces Fatigue
According to a 2020 poll, most Americans feel sleepy and tired several days a week, and many of them say it affects their mood, mental acuity, productivity, and daily activities. If you’re struggling with low energy, you need to get to the bottom of common causes such as sleep disorders, anemia, and low thyroid function. But you also need to consider your coenzyme Q10 level.
A CoQ10 deficiency can sap your energy and make you feel tired and lethargic. This is particularly common in older people since your body’s production of CoQ10 declines dramatically with age. CoQ10 is also depleted by chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart failure, and cancer. Plus, a handful of medications—most notably cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, which are taken by millions of Americans—interfere with CoQ10 production.
CoQ10 for Muscle Pain & Exercise Performance
Supplemental CoQ10 also helps prevent and treat the most common side effect of statin drugs: muscle pain and weakness. A review of 12 randomized controlled trials, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that CoQ10 improved statin-associated muscle pain, weakness, cramping, and tiredness. To prevent this and other adverse drug effects, CoQ10 should be a standard prescription for everyone taking a statin.
Athletes have also embraced this supplement because it boosts muscle concentrations of CoQ10. Small studies have demonstrated that by increasing levels of this energizing compound, supplemental CoQ10 allows exercisers to work out longer, for greater gains in strength and endurance. The greatest improvements were noted in older exercisers.
Diabetes, Insulin Resistance & CoQ10
More than 10% of the US population have diabetes and 35% have prediabetes, marked by insulin resistance. Mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, and inflammation are significant contributors to these conditions, so it’s no surprise that affected individuals usually have depleted levels of CoQ10. Supplements may help.
A recent review of clinical trials involving obese or overweight patients with type 2 diabetes found that daily doses of 200 mg of CoQ10 had beneficial effects on glucose control, as well as lipid levels. Sulfonylureas, a common class of diabetes medications, also reduces CoQ10 levels—all the more reason to supplement.
I also recommend CoQ10 for anyone with prediabetes. It has been shown to improve insulin resistance and, along with weight loss and other natural therapies, may reduce the risk of progressing to full-blown diabetes.
Help for Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
At least a quarter of American adults have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and most of them also have diabetes, insulin resistance, and/or obesity. CoQ10 is highly concentrated in the liver, where it helps protect against inflammation, free radical damage, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Yet, levels are usually lower in patients with liver disease.
A placebo-controlled clinical trial in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which tested the effects of CoQ10 for fatty liver disease, revealed significant benefits. Participants who took 100 mg of CoQ10 daily for 12 weeks had notable improvements in liver enzymes, C-reactive protein (CRP), TNF-alpha, and other markers of inflammation.
Reduces Migraine Frequency & Duration
An estimated 15% of Americans suffer from migraines, and for many of them these headaches are debilitating. Although there is no evidence that CoQ10 relieves pain when taken during a migraine, regular use has been shown to reduce migraine frequency. When researchers gave patients with a history of migraines 150 mg of CoQ10 a day for three months, they had 55% fewer migraines, compared to a group who took a placebo.
A 2021 meta-analysis found that CoQ10 also affected how long headaches lasted. The conclusion: “CoQ10 appears to have beneficial effects in reducing duration and frequency of migraine attack.”
May Help with Male & Female Infertility
Although CoQ10 is no easy answer for couples struggling with infertility, small studies suggest potential benefits for both men and women.
Several studies have shown that CoQ10 improves sperm quality. A clinical trial published in the Journal of Urology divided men with unexplained infertility into two groups and gave them either 200 mg of CoQ10 or a placebo for 26 weeks. The CoQ10 group experienced improvements in sperm motility, count, and quality, suggesting that CoQ10 may be helpful for men with unexplained infertility.
Fertility problems in women often stem from an age-related decline in the number and quality of eggs. Because oxidative stress is involved in the aging of all cells, CoQ10 may help slow this decline. As an adjunct to assisted reproductive procedures, it has been shown to improve rates of clinical pregnancy.
More Benefits of Coenzyme Q10
- Glaucoma: CoQ10 is a promising treatment for this leading cause of blindness. It has been shown to protect the optic nerve and retinal ganglion cells (a type of neuron in the eye) against high pressures in the eye related to glaucoma.
- Fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue: These perplexing conditions, which often occur in tandem, are linked with low CoQ10 levels. Supplementing with 200–300 mg a day has been shown to reduce pain, fatigue, and joint tenderness.
- Parkinson’s diseases: While an early clinical trial found that 1,200 mg a day slowed deterioration in Parkinson's disease, other studies have had mixed results Research on CoQ10 for this and other neurodegenerative diseases is ongoing.
- Skincare: Topical CoQ10 is a popular ingredient in skincare products. By increasing the skin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacity, CoQ10 may improve skin appearance.
- Healthy aging: CoQ10 plays a key role in countering several key processes that contribute to aging and the development and progression of degenerative diseases. CoQ10 can’t turn back the clock, but I do believe it supports healthy aging.
How Much Should You Take?
I recommend adding 50–100 mg of CoQ10 to your daily supplement regimen at age 40 when your body’s production of CoQ10 begins to noticeably decline. After age 60, you may want to increase your dosage to 100–200 mg. If you have had a heart attack, heart failure, recent heart surgery, or any of the other health challenges we have discussed, I suggest taking 200–300 mg of CoQ10 per day. Finally, anyone who is taking a statin drug should take 100–200 mg per day.
To be clear, CoQ10 is not a standalone cure for any health concern. Rather, it is to be used in conjunction and in coordination with other therapies as prescribed by your doctor.