Ubiquinone vs. Ubiquinol
A key question for those supplementing with CoQ10 is “ubiquinone or ubiquinol?” This article will help you finally discover what is better for you and empower you to educate your friends. But before we dive into that, let's first touch on CoQ10: what is it, do you need it, and when should you start taking it.
What is “CoQ10?"
Coenzyme Q10, known commonly as CoQ10, is a fat-soluble co-enzyme that is produced in most cells within the human body. It is found at particularly high levels in tissues and organs with the highest energy requirements because it plays an important role in energy production. CoQ10 has potent antioxidant properties because it helps protect cells from the harmful effects of free radicals (a large family of small chemicals that are by-products of normal cellular processes), which can cause serious damage to the DNA, lipids, and proteins within our cells. Here are some key facts about CoQ10:
- The highest levels are found in the heart, pancreas, liver, and kidneys.
- Levels decline with aging
- Circulating CoQ10 levels can also be reduced by certain medications including antidepressants, beta-blockers, and cholesterol-lowering agents known as statins.
- We can obtain some CoQ10 intake from dietary sources, including fish, whole grains, and meat. However, this is not sufficient to offset the amounts lost during aging (source) or increase the circulating levels significantly.
Forms of CoQ10: Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol
For any individuals considering CoQ10 supplementation, the terminology can be somewhat confusing, and maybe slightly overwhelming. There are two forms of CoQ10: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Although ubiquinone and ubiquinol are two distinct chemical structures they are closely related and are inter-converted via a cyclical chemical reaction known as “redox”. Here are some key facts about the distinctions between ubiquinone and ubiquinol:
- Ubiquinol is the “reduced” form of CoQ10, whereas ubiquinone is the “oxidized” form of CoQ10 (source). The terms oxidized and reduced refer to the loss and gain of negatively charged particles known as electrons, respectively.
- Cells within the body perform the redox interconversion reaction to maintain a state of equilibrium between the two forms as needed. This means that if there are insufficient levels of ubiquinol then increased amounts of ubiquinone will be reduced to form ubiquinol (and vice versa).
- Both ubiquinol and ubiquinone play important roles in the human body.
- Lifestyle choices such as smoking can also reduce the levels of CoQ10 in the circulation.
- Ubiquinone has been available as a supplement for many years, but ubiquinol supplements were only introduced more recently.
Which of the Ubiquinol and Ubiquinone forms of CoQ10 is more potent?
Although CoQ10 is cycled between the ubiquinone and ubiquinol forms it is ubiquinol that is the antioxidant or protective form of CoQ10. This is because its reduced state allows it to neutralize free radicals and thereby prevent them from damaging cellular DNA, lipids, and proteins. Therefore CoQ10 supplements that contain ubiquinone must first be metabolized into ubiquinol in the body in order to exert their antioxidant effects.
Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol Supplements – How Do They Work?
There are two main mechanisms behind the physiological effects of CoQ10 supplements, regardless of whether they contain ubiquinone or ubiquinol: energy production and free radical neutralization. Because CoQ10 is fat soluble, the effects achieved by supplementation are likely to be much more potent when capsules are consumed with a meal or snack containing some form of fat or oil.
- Energy production
- Most cellular energy production occurs in structures called mitochondria, which are known as “the energy powerhouses of the cell”.
- CoQ10 plays a key role in the production of a substance known as ATP within the mitochondria. ATP is critical for energy production and use, as well as metabolism.
- CoQ10 deficiency, such as that occurring during aging or in certain disease states, causes deficiency in the events that lead to energy production. Therefore, CoQ10 supplementation might enhance energy production and thereby improve energy-related symptoms.
- Antioxidant effects
- The second mechanism of action of ubiquinone and ubiquinol relies on their antioxidant effects.
- Preventing the generation of or quenching free radicals prevents potential damage to DNA, lipids, and proteins.
Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol Supplements – Who Might Benefit From Taking Them?
A variety of studies have assessed the potential effectiveness of ubiquinone and ubiquinol supplementation in patients with different conditions and diseases. Although a number of potential uses have been reported for CoQ10 supplements, the evidence to support such claims varies and can be strong, questionable, or poor. Most of the clinical trials and reports published to date do not directly compare the benefits of ubiquinone and ubiquinol, and so we report evidence for the generic umbrella of CoQ10. These recommendations are based on the advice of the United States National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic. Nevertheless, it is important to note that no such benefits have yet been validated or certified by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
Individuals who are likely to find CoQ10 supplementation beneficial include:
- Those with CoQ10 deficiency
- Individuals undergoing statin therapy
- Those with poorly controlled blood pressure
Although benefits have been reported in other patient populations, the evidence is not yet strong enough to be convincing or is indirect.
Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol Supplements in Patients with CoQ10 Deficiency
Both clinical CoQ10 deficiency itself and a variety of disease states are associated with low circulating levels of CoQ10, which can result in a number of clinical symptoms and potential side effects. Several studies have assessed the benefits of ubiquinone and ubiquinol supplementation in patients with CoQ10 deficiency. Here are some examples:
- An important clinical study compared the effects of supplementation with ubiquinone and ubiquinol in individuals with clinical CoQ10 deficiency. Ubiquinol elicited higher circulating levels and absorption of CoQ10 than ubiquinone, and also increased the activity of the mitochondrial pathways that lead to energy generation .
- One study revealed that children with fibromyalgia had low levels of circulating CoQ10, and that ubiquinol supplementation could help normalize cholesterol levels and reduce symptoms such as fatigue in these patients .
Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol Supplements in Individuals Who Take Statins
Beneficial effects of CoQ10 supplementation have been reported in patients who take statins. Statins are a family of drugs that are used to lower cholesterol. They function by inhibiting an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase, which plays a key role in cholesterol synthesis. However, statins also inhibit the production of mevalonate, which is a precursor for both cholesterol and CoQ10. There is significant clinical evidence that patients receiving statins might benefit from CoQ10 supplementation.
- Several studies have reported that individuals taking statins have lower circulating levels of CoQ10 compared with individuals not receiving statins, and that supplementation with ubiquinone could restore normal circulating levels .
- Statin use has been associated with increased muscle pain, and CoQ10 supplementation decreased the severity of pain and the amount to which it interfered with patients’ daily lives .
Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol Supplements in Individuals with Poorly Controlled Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is becoming increasingly prevalent in western society, so supplements that might improve control are very appealing. Several clinical studies have suggested that supplementation with CoQ10 might reduce blood pressure.
- In one study the addition of CoQ10 to the normal treatment regimen of patients enhanced blood pressure control significantly, and also improved cardiac function .
- Multiple studies have reported that CoQ10 had a blood pressure lowering (hypotensive) effect, and this might be caused in part by correcting a vitamin deficiency (source).
What are the Benefits of Ubiquinol vs. Ubiquinone Supplementation?
In addition to all the confirmed beneficial health effects of CoQ10 supplementation described above, clinical and scientific studies have suggested that there are many more benefits that are yet to be defined fully. As such, we expect to be able to report many more benefits to ubiquinol-based supplements over the coming months and years. When it comes to a direct comparison of ubiquinone and ubiquinol, there are some important characteristics of ubiquinol supplements that lead to their superiority over ubiquinone supplements:
- Although supplements that contain ubiquinone are generally less expensive, the cost-effectiveness of ubiquinol is higher because lower doses are needed to achieve the same physiological effects. Furthermore, the increased half-life of ubiquinol means that less frequent dosing might be required, which will further increase the cost-effectiveness.
Is Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol Supplementation Safe?
Blinded randomized controlled trials are very important for assessing the safety and efficacy of medications. In these studies, scientists or physicians assign patients to receive either a treatment or something else (often a placebo, which is “fake” pill that makes the patient think they are receiving a treatment), but the patient does not know what they are receiving. In more sophisticated studies even the scientists and physicians do not know which patients are receiving which drug (known as a double-blind trial). However, no randomized controlled trials have yet been performed to assess the safety of CoQ10 supplements .
Nevertheless, ubiquinone and ubiquinol supplementation are generally considered safe by reputable agencies including the National Institutes of Health. According to Johns Hopkins, most supplements mild side effects have been reported in some patients, including the following:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach upset
- Skin reactions
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
However, some sources have suggested that these side effects can be reduced by splitting the daily dose into two or three smaller doses. It is important to note that, as with all supplements, any pregnant or breastfeeding women or individuals taking medications prescribed for conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure should consult their physician before beginning CoQ10 supplementation. There have also been reports that ubiquinone and ubiquinol supplementation could reduce the efficacy of warfarin, and so care should also be taken in individuals with poor circulation.
Shop for Qunol CoQ10 supplements or contact us with any questions about ubiquinone vs. ubiquinol.
- Hosoe K, Kitano M, Kishida H, Kubo H, Fujii K, Kitahara M. Study on safety and bioavailability of ubiquinol (Kaneka QH) after single and 4-week multiple oral administration to healthy volunteers. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2007;47: 19–28.
- García-Corzo L, Luna-Sánchez M, Doerrier C, Ortiz F, Escames G, Acuña-Castroviejo D, et al. Ubiquinol-10 ameliorates mitochondrial encephalopathy associated with CoQ deficiency. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2014;1842: 893–901.
- Miyamae T, Seki M, Naga T, Uchino S, Asazuma H, Yoshida T, et al. Increased oxidative stress and coenzyme Q10 deficiency in juvenile fibromyalgia: amelioration of hypercholesterolemia and fatigue by ubiquinol-10 supplementation. Redox Rep. 2013;18: 12–19.
- Nawarskas JJ. HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors and coenzyme Q10. Cardiol Rev. 2005;13: 76–79.
- Caso G, Kelly P, McNurlan MA, Lawson WE. Effect of coenzyme q10 on myopathic symptoms in patients treated with statins. Am J Cardiol. 2007;99: 1409–1412.
- Langsjoen P, Langsjoen P, Willis R, Folkers K. Treatment of essential hypertension with coenzyme Q10. Mol Aspects Med. 1994;15 Suppl: S265–72.
- Hidaka T, Fujii K, Funahashi I, Fukutomi N, Hosoe K. Safety assessment of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Biofactors. 2008;32: 199–208.
- Tags: CoQ10
- Blog Contributor