By Pina LoGiudice ND, LAc and Peter Bongiorno ND, LAc Directors of Inner Source Health
Naturally produced in our bodies, ubiquinol is an active form of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which has been shown to have quite powerful antioxidant potential. First discovered in the 1950s, CoQ10 is known to help many of the diseases associated with aging. CoQ10 can be found in foods such as meat and fish, although in very low amounts.
In our practice, we have found clear benefits from ubiquinol supplements for issues of heart disease, blood pressure, gum and oral health, and even nervous system challenges. This article will discuss how ubiquinol may help our bodies, and what solid medical research has shown regarding the benefit of this supplement.
How Does Ubiquinol Work?
From moment to moment, we are burning energy and aging. As a result, free radicals are produced in our bodies which will damage all cells, including vessel walls, nerve tissue, and the linings of our organs. Additionally, environmental toxins that enter into our bodies can also cause damage and increase oxidant levels, allowing a further breakdown of our bodies’ cells and repair mechanisms.
Despite the aging process, every cell in the body is in the business of producing energy to keep you vital and healthy. The energy each cell produces is in the form of a molecule called ATP, which is made in the energy powerhouse of the cell known as the mitochondria. Ubiquinol has been shown to promote ATP production in the mitochondrial inner membrane.
Ubiquinol not only helps to support your body’s energy production, but it’s also considered one of the strongest antioxidants available. It has the ability to protect your body's cells from damage caused by oxidative stress and free radicals. Ubiquinol sopps up the oxidants causing the damage; removing oxidant attack allows your body to repair and restore health.
Help for What Ages You
Ubiquinol is known already known to be helpful in neurological disease, liver dysfunction, renal disease and other diseases/conditions. We are going to focus on a few very common conditions in aging: heart disease, statin medication use, blood pressure problems, gum disease.
Since the 1970s, clinical studies have shown that the oral administration of CoQ10 improves the health of patients suffering from heart problems.
An analysis of heart muscle tissue collected from patients with heart disease revealed a marked decrease in the tissue CoQ10 concentration.
It has been shown that patients with lower ubiquinol concentrations and decreases in ATP (energy) production in the heart muscle tissue suffered more severe types of heart disease than patients with higher levels of CoQ10.
Clinical trials of patients with a severe form of heart disease called congestive heart failure were given 580 mg per day of ubiquinone. These patients found significant increases in blood levels of CoQ10 levels, along with excellent improvements in the ejection fraction of the heart (the heart’s ability to move blood) and improvement of the left ventricle, the part of the heart that sends blood out to the body.
There is also some preliminary research evidence that suggests coenzyme Q10 may be helpful in cardiac arrhythmias, a type of heart issue where the heartbeat can become too fast or erratic.
Statin Medication Use
Statin medications are the number-one-selling medication in the world. While statin medications are reported to help avert cardiovascular problems like heart attacks by lowering LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol, statin medications themselves are known to lower the levels of natural ubiquinol in the body and heart muscle.
One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed a 22% decrease in ubiquinol levels in patients using simvastatin (Zocor), while other studies suggest that statins can reduce serum levels of coenzyme Q10 by up to 40%. Long-term use of statin medications can increase risk of nerve damage and rhabdomyolsis (breakdown of muscle tissue). Since nerve and muscle tissue need plenty of ubiquinol and CoQ10 to keep up energy, it makes sense that this depletion could cause problems. Research already is mounting which suggests that ubiquinol supplementation could decrease muscle pain due to statin use. As such, we recommend anyone taking these medications should consider adding supplemental CoQ10 in the form of ubiquinol to their daily regimen.
Double-blind clinic research studies report that supplementation with forms of CoQ10 can help significantly decrease blood pressure in people who have hypertension. Most of this research supplemented 100 mg of regular ubiquinone form of CoQ10 per day for at least ten weeks. The authors of these studies have indicated that treatment with CoQ10 may lower blood pressure by decreasing oxidative stress and balancing insulin response in patients with known high blood pressure who are receiving conventional antihypertensive (anti-high blood pressure) medication. Insulin is a hormone known to regulate blood sugar and high insulin levels along with high blood pressure can raise the risk of heart attack by 20 times.
Dry mouth is a condition in which salivary production in the mouth is greatly reduced. Besides making you feel thirsty, dry mouth can cause cavities, food intake and tasting problems, promote gum disease and cause mouth pain. For some, this condition can negatively alter a person’s quality of life in a profound way.
Medical studies suggest that an age-related decrease in energy production and ATP has been suggested to result in impaired salivary secretion. Some cases of dry mouth can be caused by an autoimmune issue called Sjogren’s Syndrome. But in many cases, it is unclear what is causing this problem. We do know that the incidence of dry mouth increases as we age, with a particularly high incidence among peri-menopausal women, which suggests that hormonal changes may play a role.
In one study, 66 patients were given either ubiquinol 100 mg/day or a placebo for 1 month, and found the supplement was able to find its way to the salivary gland and increase its levels in the gland helping to confer improved ability to produce saliva.
Like dry mouth, periodontal (gum) disease is a known cause of loss of quality of life, and has even been linked with higher levels of heart problems.
With regard to the effects of CoQ10 on gum health, one group of researchers reported that after patients took supplemental CoQ10, their levels of subgingival (under the gum) bacteria decreased. It seems that the CoQ10 helped the immune system strengthen so the body could fight off the bacteria more easily.
If CoQ10 Is Cheaper, Why Do I Need to Take Ubiquinol?
There are a few forms of CoQ10 out there. Regular CoQ10, which has been around the longest, is called "ubiquinone." The form we have been referring to mostly in this article is called ubiquinol, and is the non-oxidized, active form of CoQ10 in the body. As demonstrated in studies, ubiquinol has superior bioavailability to ordinary ubiquinone, which means it gets absorbed into the body and blood stream much better.
Until recently, the only way to increase ubiquinol levels in the blood was for the body to convert it from ubiquinone (CoQ10), which research has shown becomes increasingly difficult as you age. While regular CoQ10 may be cheaper and will have some benefit, studies strongly suggest that ubiquinol is a more effective form to take.
Dosage and Safety
Various studies supplementing with ubiquinol will prescribe an average of anywhere between 50 mg per day up to 600 mg per day. Severe heart disease and severe neurological issues like Parkinson’s Disease may require the higher level dosages. Studies dosing from 300 mg to 1200 mg per day for 16 months of CoQ10 for four weeks have not shown any concerns of toxicity.
A Ubiquitous Conclusion
The word ubiquitous means “existing everywhere.” Ubiquinol is a molecule that plays an important energy and antioxidant role in every cell in our body. As naturopathic physicians, we want to stress that aging, heart disease, blood pressure and oral health challenges still require that you eat healthily, exercise, and work on lowering stress. No one supplement by itself can cure these challenging conditions. But for great support to help your body energize and balance against damage, ubiquinol can be a healing and solid part of your supplemental regimen.