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Coenzyme Q10: My Favorite Life Extension Nutrient (Doubles Lifespan In Mice)

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a critical fat-soluble antioxidant that is made in every cell of the body. In addition to being an antioxidant, CoQ10 is also required for energy production in all cells. The point that I want to emphasize is coenzyme Q10's ability to slow down the aging process in humans.

All human cells contain mitochondria which are often described as “cellular power plants” because they produce an estimated 95% of our cellular energy. Coenzyme Q10 is required for energy production in the mitochondria. It is amazing to realize that every one of the body’s approximately 70 trillion cells requires coenzyme Q10 in order to produce energy. Thus, in our mitochondria, CoQ10 functions as a key antioxidant and as an agent that is required for energy production.  

At the cellular level, highly reactive molecules called free radicals cause damage which results in biological aging. The majority of the free radicals generated in humans are produced in mitochondrial membranes during the process of energy production. If an individual’s coenzyme Q10 levels are low, there will be an increased amount of free radical damage in the mitochondria, especially in mitochondrial DNA.

Advanced understanding of the relationship between free radicals and the aging process suggests that one of the primary causes of aging is free radical damage to the DNA in our mitochondria, which damages or destroys the cell’s ability to produce energy. This is why coenzyme Q10 is so important. CoQ10 is the primary antioxidant present in mitochondria that can neutralize free radicals, thus reducing the rate of damage and helping to preserve the cell’s ability to produce energy.

Dramatically Extending Life Span: Studies evaluating things that influence lifespan are difficult to conduct in humans because they take too long. Instead, researchers use small animal models which compresses the story into a much shorter time scale. I want to discuss an experiment done with mice that reveal the power of coenzyme Q10.  This experiment was conducted by Emile Bliznakov, MD.(41) Dr. Bliznakov subsequently wrote a book titled The Miracle Nutrient: Coenzyme Q10.

In this experiment, Dr. Bliznakov started out with 100 “old” female white mice that were between 16 to 18 months of age. One week for mice is roughly equivalent to one year of human life. Thus, at the beginning of this experiment, the mice being used were in their sixties or seventies in human terms. At 16-18 months of age, these “old” mice were beginning to show some signs of decreased immunity and declining bodily functions.

These old mice were divided into two groups of 50 and maintained on optimally nutritious diets. One group acted as the controls while the second group was regularly given doses of CoQ10. At 28 weeks after the beginning of the study, 70% of the control mice had died compared to only 40% of the CoQ10-treated mice. At 36 weeks, 100% of the control mice were dead while about 40% of the CoQ10-treated mice were still alive and active with most not showing the normal signs of physical deterioration that are commonly associated with advanced age.

At the 56th week, 10% of the CoQ10-treated mice were still alive and thriving. This is almost twice as long as these mice would normally be expected to survive beyond the beginning of the experiment. At the 80th week (remember the last control mouse died at week 36), 4 mice were still alive and at the 82nd week, the last mouse died. In human terms, this is a lifespan of roughly 130 years of age!

During the 1990s as my interest in coenzyme Q10 was growing, I had several long phone conversations with Dr. Bliznakov about his research. He told me that from week 28 up to week 36 when the last control mouse died, there were amazing observable differences in the appearance and activity between the two groups of mice. Remember, week 28 to 36 is roughly equivalent to 92 to 100 years of age in humans. The aging control mice were listless and basically lay in their cages most of the time. Also, patches of their fur had fallen out and the fur that remained was dull and matted. On the other hand, the fur on the elderly CoQ10-treated mice remained glossy, their skin still appeared healthy and they maintained normal levels of activity moving around in their cages up until they died. Coenzyme Q10 is remarkable in its ability to neutralize free radicals, reduce the rate of mitochondrial DNA damage, and slow the aging process.

The following classes of commonly prescribed prescription drugs interfere with the body's ability to produce coenzyme Q10: oral contraceptives, menopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT), statin cholesterol-lowering drugs, medications for diabetes (both sulfonylureas and biguanides), several classes of blood pressure-lowering medications, heart medications called beta-blockers, tricyclic antidepressants and major tranquilizers.

I think everyone can benefit from taking coenzyme Q10 as a daily nutritional supplement, but it is especially important for people who take any of the classes of drugs I just mentioned above, because those drugs interfere with CoQ10 synthesis. How many people are affected by drugs that interfere with coenzyme Q10 synthesis? The numbers are stagering. According to the latest statistics, over 15 million Americans are taking statin drugs. In the United States in 2011, there were 94.1 million prescriptions for the statin drug simvastatin alone. In 2011 there were also 48.3 million prescriptions for the most commonly prescribed diabetic drug known as metformin.

Dr. Bliznakov’s study shows that taking CoQ10 regularly not only lengthens life, it also dramatically improves the quality of life. Actually, I believe this is true for all antioxidant nutrients. They help minimize free radical damage which over time will slow down physical aging resulting in a longer healthier life.

What Dose, What Form?  I recommend taking from 50 mg to 100 mg of CoQ10 as ubiquinol daily as a maintenance dose. Since CoQ10 is a fat-soluble nutrient, I suggest taking it at your largest meal of the day which is more likely to contain fat that will enhance absorption. For individuals who take medications that block CoQ10 biosynthesis, I recommend taking at least 100 mg or more daily. I half-jokingly tell people that the only side effect of CoQ10 therapy is poverty because CoQ10 is more expensive than most nutritional supplements.

There are two forms of coenzyme Q10 available, ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Ubiquinone is called the oxidized form whereas ubiquinol is the reduced or “active” form. In order to benefit from coenzyme Q10, ubiquinone must be converted into ubiquinol in the body.  Ubiquinol is the active form that functions in the body. After about age 40, most people have a dramatic decline in their ability to convert ubiquinone into ubiquinol. So, even though ubiquinol CoQ10 supplements are more expensive, it is the only form that I recommend. In many cases, elderly people may be wasting their money purchasing the less expensive ubiquinone because they can’t convert it into ubiquinol once they have taken it.

Scientific studies report that ubiquinol gets absorbed up to 8 times more effectively than ubiquinone, and absorbed levels of ubiquinol remain in the blood far longer than ubiquinone. In studies measuring exercise-induced fatigue, ubiquinol was 90% more effective than ubiquinone. In middle-aged mice, ubiquinol was shown to be 40% more effective in slowing measurements of aging compared to ubiquinone. 

I hope you found this interesting. Now you know why coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinol) is my favorite nutrient for maintaining optimal energy, reducing free radical damage and slowing down the aging process.



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