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What Is Vitamin Q10?

By Sandi Busch

You may know vitamin Q10 by its more common name, coenzyme Q10, or more simply as CoQ10. Technically, it’s not a vitamin, but it is vital for your well-being. Your body needs coenzyme Q10 to produce energy. While some foods contain coenzyme Q10, your body naturally produces a sufficient amount to keep you active and healthy.

Essential for Energy

Coenzyme Q10, or ubiquinone, is a fat-soluble substance found inside every cell in your body, where it has an essential role in the process that generates energy. It’s also used to make antioxidants, which protect cell membranes and structures inside cells from damage caused by free radicals. Because your body produces it, a recommended daily intake has not been established. Deficiencies are rare and usually caused by a genetic disorder. The amount of coenzyme Q10 found in tissues goes down as people age, but it's not known whether this creates a deficiency, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.

Potential Health Benefits

A review of 12 clinical trials published in the April 2007 issue of the “Journal of Human Hypertension” found that blood pressure went down when people took 100 to 120 milligrams of coenzyme Q10 daily. Some research studies indicate it may improve heart function in people diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Other studies, however, found no improvement, so more research is needed to verify its potential, according to New York University. Research completed at the time of publication indicates that coenzyme Q10 does not improve athletic performance in healthy people, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.

Food Sources

Some foods naturally contain coenzyme Q10. You also need two nutrients -- proteins and vitamin B-6 -- for your body to produce a sufficient amount of the coenzyme. Beef, poultry and fish are all good sources of coenzyme Q10, as well as the amino acids and vitamin B-6 your body needs to make its own supply. Other good sources of coenzyme Q10 include soybeans, nuts, sesame seeds, broccoli, cauliflower, oranges, strawberries and eggs. You'll also get vitamin B-6 from fortified cereals, nuts, bananas, spinach, potatoes and winter squash.

Supplement Recommendations

The supplemental dose for coenzyme Q10 ranges from 30 milligrams to 300 milligrams daily, according to New York University. Less than 10 percent of coenzyme Q10 from supplements is actually absorbed, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. You can increase its absorption by taking supplements with a meal that includes some fats. Doses above 100 milligrams daily are typically divided into two or three smaller doses.

Safety Concerns

Most people tolerate supplemental CoQ10 without problems, but mild side-effects such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea sometimes occur. You may also experience loss of appetite or develop a skin rash. Don’t take coenzyme Q10 supplements if you have low blood pressure or take medication to lower blood pressure. Coenzyme Q10 may interfere with other prescription medications, especially some used to treat cancer and blood clotting. Consult your health care provider before taking supplements.

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