What is Q10 – what is it needed for and where does it come from?
Q10 is a vitaminoid from the group of Q-coenzymes and is also known under the names ubiquinone-10 and coenzyme Q10. The term ubiquinone is derived from ubique (Latin for everywhere) and from the fact that Q10 contains a ring-shaped quinone structure. As an electron and proton carrier, Q10 plays an important role in the redox reactions in the so-called respiratory chain, the energy metabolism of the cells.
Q10 is structurally related to vitamins E and K and is formed exclusively from hydrogen, carbon and oxygen according to the chemical molecular formula C59H90O4. It is a tasteless and odorless yellow-reddish crystalline powder, which is also offered as an additive in creams and in dietary supplements in the form of capsules and tablets.
What is Q10 needed for?
Unlike green plants, which derive their energy from photosynthesis, the conversion of solar energy into chemical energy, humans and animals rely on harnessing energy from the oxidation (combustion) of food components. This exothermic process is broken down into many individual, enzymatically controlled, steps. The most important process of energy production is the so-called respiratory chain, in which hydrogen is ultimately oxidized with oxygen to water (H2O). The two main players are NADH (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide hydride), also known as coenzyme1, and ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the universal energy supplier available to cells. The process of energy production takes place in the “power plants” of the cells, the mitochondria, which as organelles within the cells even have their own genetic material. Depending on the general energy requirements of the body’s cells, mitochondria are present in varying numbers, from about a thousand to well over a hundred thousand per cell. As a coenzyme, Q10 ensures the transport of electrons within the respiratory chain and thus occupies a key position. Coenzymes ensure the biological activation of their “associated” enzymes at the right time and in the right place. This makes it possible for enzymes to circulate safely in the body in an inactivated state and to be activated by the corresponding coenzyme at any time if required.
The supply of Q10 to the mitochondria through self-synthesis.
The perception of the key position held by Q10 in the energy metabolism of all living cells of the human body presupposes its constant presence and availability in the mitochondria of each individual cell. It is of great advantage for energy metabolism that Q10 can be synthesized by the body itself in the inner membranes of the mitochondria, in the place where it is needed. The most important starting materials for the production of coenzyme Q10 are the non-essential amino acid tyrosine and the essential amino acid phenylalanine. The necessary methyl groups (CH3) are “supplied” by S-adenosylmethionine (SAM). Further coenzymes from the vitamin B complex such as niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid and cobalamin are needed to catalyze the complex synthesis process.
An insufficient supply of the body with the above-mentioned precursors of Q10 or a deficiency of certain B vitamins or of vitamin E can hinder the synthesis of ubiquinone-10. Similarly, congenital phenylketonuria, which involves a metabolic disorder in the breakdown and conversion of the amino acid phenyalanine to the amino acid tyrosine, can impede the body’s synthesis of coenzyme Q10. Also, medication for the treatment of widespread hypercholesterolemia with statins can lead to reduced Q10 production because statins, in their capacity as cholesterol synthesis enzyme inhibitors, not only inhibit cholesterol synthesis but also, as an undesirable side effect, that of coenzyme Q10.
The supply of the body with Q10 through food intake.
In the presence of one of the causes of reduced self-synthesis of Q10 and in increasing age, which may also be accompanied by a decreasing concentration of Q10 in the tissues, it is recommended to supply the coenzyme Q10 through food or supplements. Mackerel, sardines, vegetable oils, potatoes, broccoli, spinach and other vegetables contain high concentrations. Absorption occurs in the small intestine in a similar way to fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K as part of fat digestion. It is a complex process involving digestive enzymes of the pancreas. Ultimately, the ubiquinones are packaged into tiny “transport beads” (micelles) for further transport in the body, which enables them to be transported in aqueous solution. It is estimated that the bioavailability of Q10 ingested with food is only 5-10%. The rate can be improved by simultaneous intake of certain secondary plant substances such as flavonoids.
Supply and dosage Q10 via food supplements in the form of capsules and tablets.
Not all foods with a high Q10 content can be eaten raw, so that an additional supply of Q10 to the body via food cannot be accurately estimated because the non-heat-resistant coenzyme is largely destroyed during cooking. Food supplements containing defined quantities of Q10 in the form of capsules or tablets are an alternative. In February 2014, the German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) ruled that food supplements containing Q10 in capsule or tablet form may be marketed with Q10. The recommended daily intake must not exceed 100 mg of coenzyme Q10, and the packaging must bear a notice warning against consumption by pregnant women, nursing mothers, children and adolescents under the age of 18. In scientific studies, a daily intake of 30 to 200 mg Q10 is recommended, although higher doses of up to 900 mg are also harmless, as has been proven in studies.
How is the Q10 in food supplements produced?
Three methods are available for the industrial production of coenzyme Q10: 1. fermentation using yeasts, 2. fermentation using certain bacteria, 3. synthetic manufacturing process. The safety and bioefficacy of Q10 produced by yeast fermentation has been confirmed by an international chemical laboratory. The synthetically produced Q10 also simultaneously contains a biologically inactive cis-isomer of the coenzyme with the same molecular formula but differently arranged structure.
What health-promoting effects are to be achieved?
For years, the health-promoting effect of an increased intake of Q10 has been the subject of discussion among proponents and opponents. In the meantime, the results of studies are available that prove a health-promoting effect of ubiquinone-10. The antioxidant effect of the coenzyme suggests a positive effect in a variety of diseases, and it is popularly used as an anti-aging agent.
Positive results have been observed in the supportive treatment of heart failure, coronary heart disease (CHD) and diabetes mellitus (type 2). At present, no reliable studies are available regarding the influence on male sperm fertility. Similarly, positive effects in the supportive treatment of Parkinson’s disease, cancer, arteriosclerosis, hypertension, migraine and other diseases due to the Q10 metabolism are expected, but not yet sufficiently scientifically proven. In the treatment of hypercholesterolemia by statins, the concomitant intake of coenzyme Q10 is recommended to compensate for the body’s own synthesis suppressed by the statins.