You might’ve already seen CoQ10 splashed across a bunch of skincare products, from serums to face creams. But did you know this powerful antioxidant also plays an essential role in keeping the rest of your body in good nick?
With benefits like increased energy, improved physical performance and protection from free radical damage, CoQ10 delivers plenty of amazing support to your body.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, it can also be helpful. Here’s what you should know about CoQ10 and how this essential antioxidant can support your health.
What is CoQ10?
CoQ10 is a naturally occurring antioxidant present in nearly every one of your body’s cells. It’s found in several parts of your body, however, it’s most abundant in vital organs like your heart, kidneys and liver .
Because it’s an antioxidant, CoQ10 is essential for protecting your cells from free radical damage. But it also plays a valuable role in your metabolism and energy production and potentially lowers the risk of myriad ailments including high cholesterol and diabetes .
Besides its most common one — CoQ10 — this almighty antioxidant goes by many other names: Coenzyme Q, Coenzyme Q10, CoQ, Ubiquinone, Ubiquinone-Q10, Ubidecarenone and Vitamin Q10. But here we’ll refer to it as CoQ10. (Mostly because it’s a heck of a lot easier to write than ‘Ubidecarenone’.)
How does it work in the body?
We know that CoQ10 is found in almost every single cell in your body. But how does your body actually use the stuff? The process is pretty complex.
There are 2 forms of CoQ10 present in your body: ubiquinone is its oxidised form and ubiquinol is its reduced form.
In order for your body to use CoQ10 effectively, it needs to convert ubiquinone (which is inactive) to ubiquinol (which is active). This conversion happens in the lymph and then enters your bloodstream as ubiquinol .
Next, your body undertakes a process called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis, where it produces ATP molecules. This is performed by the mitochondria in your cells. The production of ATP molecules is essential because it delivers energy to your cells.
While ATP synthesis is a critical part of energy production, it does have one potentially harmful side effect: your mitochondria produce free radicals as a byproduct.
And too many free radicals can lead to nasty things like cell damage, inflammation and oxidative stress (when there’s an unequal balance of antioxidants and free radicals) .
So, where does CoQ10 come into all of this? CoQ10 is central to the process because it helps protect against free radical damage while your mitochondria are busy producing ATP. However, there's a slight catch.
Even though it occurs naturally in the body, your CoQ10 levels decline as you get older. Taking medications to decrease cholesterol — known as statins — can also curb your CoQ10 levels, and people with conditions like heart disease have been found to have lower levels, too .
Some foods contain CoQ10 — like meats, eggs, fish and nuts and most people can get ample CoQ10 through their diet .
But if you’ve got a health issue that’s affecting your CoQ10 supply, foods don’t really contain high enough quantities to notably increase your body’s levels . (We’re also sorry to say that using CoQ10 skincare likely won’t do a whole lot for your health, either.)
This is why there are lots of CoQ10 supplements available, as well as general dietary supplements that use it as an ingredient. These supplements are typically sold as tablets, hard-shell or soft-gel capsules, or even oral sprays.
What are the health benefits of CoQ10?
Where to begin? Given it's present in almost all of your cells, CoQ10 plays a fundamental role in your health. Here are some of its benefits.
It can reduce inflammation
Research shows that CoQ10 has anti-inflammatory effects, thus reducing inflammation in the body .
It may curb headaches and migraines
There have been several studies demonstrating CoQ10’s ability to reduce the frequency, duration and severity of migraines .
It can help with diabetes and associated issues
Multiple studies have shown that CoQ10 can help regulate blood sugar levels and high cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes .
It could enhance physical performance
There’s some evidence to show that CoQ10 can reduce both oxidative stress and fatigue, thereby improving physical performance. CoQ10 is essential for producing energy, which is why these benefits make some sense.
What role does CoQ10 play in conception?
When it comes to male fertility, there’s strong evidence to suggest that oxidative stress is linked to male infertility — mainly because it impacts sperm . And if sperm is negatively affected — say, the quality is poor, the sperm are unable to swim properly or sperm count is low — it can lead to problems conceiving .
We already know that CoQ10 can help curb oxidative stress. But there have also been numerous studies showing CoQ10 can support sperm quality by bettering sperm motility (its ability to move around) .
As an example, a 2015 study found that overall sperm motility improved by 26% through CoQ10 supplementation. More specifically, fast-moving sperm quantity increased by 41%, slow-moving sperm dropped by 29% and stagnant sperm fell by 55% .
As far as sperm count goes, a study from 2022 concluded that out of all antioxidants tested (including other ingredients known to support sperm health like selenium, folic acid, vitamin C and zinc), CoQ10 was the most effective when it came to elevating sperm concentration and generated a substantial increase .
When is the best time to take CoQ10?
If you’re keen to start taking a CoQ10 supplement, how exactly should you take it? And how much do you need?
It’s recommended to take between 30-200mg daily if you’re over the age of 19 . However, if you’re taking it for a particular condition, your doc might recommend a specific dose. In those fertility studies we mentioned earlier, for example, male participants took anywhere between 150 and 200mg per day.
As far as when you should take it, there’s actually no general consensus. Some say it can cause insomnia and to avoid taking it before bed (especially in high doses) , while others believe your body is best able to harness its benefits overnight.
If you’re worried about the potential for a sleepless night, you should generally be okay to take a supplement either in the morning or afternoon.
Regardless of the time of day, try to take your supplement with a meal — ideally a slightly fatty one. CoQ10 is a fat-soluble antioxidant, meaning it’s better absorbed if it’s consumed alongside fats or oils .
You could take it with your morning avo toast, your lunchtime salmon with veggies or an oil-dressed salad, or your afternoon peanut butter with apple slices.
How to consume CoQ10
If you're on a conception journey, you're probably looking at ways to support this.
Kin's Male Prenatal, which includes CoQ10 alongside other ingredients like selenium, zinc and vitamin C, is packed with bioavailable antioxidants and nutrients for dads-to-be and their sperm to support the chances of conception.
On average, it takes 74 days for new sperm to be produced in the body, and about 3 months to grow healthier sperm after making improvements to lifestyle and nutrition.
Kin's Male Prenatal assists male fertility by supporting sperm health and motility, while reducing free radicals and damage.
Promotes sperm health
With help from ingredients like zinc and selenium.
Reduces free radicals and damage
Thanks to the combination of vitamin C, zinc and coenzyme Q10.
Supports sperm motility and energy
From selenium and coenzyme Q10.
Supports testosterone health
From zinc and selenium (critically important as low testosterone is on the rise).
Helps the body adapt to stress
With assistance from ashwagandha, which is traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine.
And what about female fertility? Thus far, most of the proof points towards CoQ10’s role in male fertility. While there is some early evidence to say that CoQ10 may help improve egg quality and egg count, and may also enhance fertility outcomes with assisted reproductive technology procedures like IVF, the results with female fertility are still fairly limited .
What are the side effects of CoQ10?
Generally speaking, CoQ10's side effects aren’t overly common. This is because it’s a naturally occurring antioxidant that the body tolerates pretty well in supplement form.
That being said, you may notice a few unpleasant — but mild — digestive troubles like diarrhoea, nausea (possibly with vomiting), light abdominal pain, heartburn and/or reduced appetite. Insomnia has also been reported, as have dizziness, fatigue and irritability .
It’s worth noting that some people should heed a little caution with CoQ10. There isn’t yet enough evidence confirming CoQ10’s safety while pregnant or breastfeeding and some medications may interact with it. If you’re taking blood thinners, thyroid medication or insulin, or are undergoing chemo, chat with your doc before taking a CoQ10 supplement .