Q10 Boosts Energy, Nerves, Muscles & Metabolism
Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
Coenzyme Q10 was the first anti-aging superstar nutrient, hitting the consumer market in the 1970s. Q10’s promise to turn back the clock on aging cells set the stage for many of the modern day anti-aging approaches based on nutritional science.
Over the years Q10 has been put to extensive scientific testing for a variety of purposes. It has amassed 30 years of solid research in the field of cardiovascular health, and is supportive in such areas as blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, arterial health, and heart health. My article, Coenzyme Q10, Statins, and Heart Health goes into greater detail on the cardiovascular topic.
More recently, Q10 has demonstrated a significant ability to help nerves and muscles. New science shows that in addition to its antioxidant role, Q10 also helps stabilize the key gene signal underlying inflammation, NF-kappaB. Collectively, these benefits will assist overall metabolism, including weight loss efforts.
This article summarizes Q10’s importance to your health, as well as brings you up to date on recent findings.
Q10 – Crucial for Energy Production
Within every cell are cellular engines called mitochondria. Your nerves, muscles, heart, liver, and immune system all need large amounts of energy to perform their healthy functions, and so have a lot of mitochondria.
Your cell engines combine fuel (calories) with oxygen, and then use various nutrients in a multistep process to produce cellular energy, known as ATP. Many nutrients assist in this function, including B vitamins, krebs cycle cofactors, magnesium, lipoic acid, acetyl-l-carnitine, and Q10.
Thus, Q10 is part of your energy-producing team. It plays a very important role in the final steps of energy production, and cannot be replaced or compensated for by any other nutrient. If you have an adequate amount you make energy at a more optimal rate. If you are lacking you simply cannot make energy at the optimal rate and instead will make free radicals in direct proportion to the lack of Q10.
Since energy is fundamental to everything else, a lack of Q10 contributes to the aging process in all systems in your body, especially internal cellular health and those body systems that rely heavily on energy production (heart, liver, brain, and muscles).
Q10 itself can be synthesized in your body from the amino acid tyrosine. Its formation requires eight nutrients: tetrahydrobiopterin, vitamins B6, C, B2, B12, folic acid, niacin, and pantothenic acid. Plants contain no Q10. Animal meats do have Q10 with the highest amounts found in red meat.
The need for Q10 rises dramatically under the influence of stress. If you maintain a better state of natural balance, then you will need less Q10. As your stress level rises Q10 is used up faster. If a deficiency persists then free radical production can accelerate, which further aggravates the lack of Q10. This is a nasty problem commonly experienced by individuals with fatigue and a trend of worsening health.
Common Q10 doses are in the 100 mg - 300 mg range for general health. More advanced health problems respond better to doses in the 600 mg - 1,200 mg range. Look for a dose that noticeably boosts your energy, mood, and stress tolerance – that dose will vary depending on how you are doing and how your life is going.
Q10 as an Antioxidant
Antioxidants are your body’s natural defense system against free radicals. Your cells need a certain amount of antioxidants on hand simply to cope with the number of free radicals that are produced during normal energy production.
Q10 is part of your antioxidant team. When it helps make energy more efficiently it helps reduce free radical production caused by inefficient energy production. Since Q10 is fat soluble it is also known to accumulate in your cell membranes and protect the important fatty structures of your cells from free radical damage.
Q10 also helps recycle and recharge vitamin E and vitamin C so that they can continue to work as antioxidants. It is very clear that antioxidants work best as a team, and Q10 is a key player.
When antioxidants run low free radical damage is increased. In turn, this speeds the aging process. Q10 has gained notoriety as a potent anti-aging nutrient because it helps both energy production and antioxidant defenses in a significant way.
Q10, Nerve Health, and Parkinson’s
It is now extremely clear to the scientific community that mitochondrial problems1 are involved with almost all conditions of nerve-related deterioration. Since Q10 is capable of helping correct mitochondrial dysfunction, it is a key nutrient to help slow and possibly reverse age-associated changes in nerve health. Q10 is being widely studied as a nerve-protecting nutrient2 in a variety of neurological problems.
A landmark study published in 2002 proved that 1,200 mg per day of Q10 could slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease3. In this study, doses of 300 mg, 600 mg and 1,200 mg of Q10 were tested in patients who were in the early stages of Parkinson’s, over a 16 month period. Those who took the lower doses showed a trend toward improvement, but that trend only became statistically significant in the group who took 1,200 mg per day. At this time, no study shows that Q10 can change more advanced stages of Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s disease involves destruction of the dopamine producing cells4 primarily in the substantia nigra midbrain region. The fact that this disease primarily affects a particular region of the brain, as opposed to the brain in general, has focused research on differences in that brain region compared to others.
A neurotoxin called MPTP is known to induce Parkinson’s-like disease in humans, not affecting other areas of the brain. It works by specifically disrupting the function of Q105 in the substantia nigra midbrain region, resulting in the loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells.
Recently, scientists proved for the first time that Q10 levels are low6 in the substantia nigra brain region of Parkinson’s patients, proving a clear nutrient deficiency in the key brain region associated with Parkinson’s.
In addition to the energy boosting, antioxidant properties of Q10, other research shows that Q10 modulates the key inflammatory gene switch, NF-kappaB7, meaning that dopamine nerve cells will be more resistant to any kind of stress. The ability of Q108 to modulate NF-kappaB all around your body is another angle on the anti-aging properties of Q10, as inflammation is also a key theme of wear and tear and accelerated aging.
Q10 and Muscle Health
Muscles are big users of Q10. A prolonged lack of Q10 may contribute to or possibly be the cause of significantly impaired muscle function.
The ability to use your muscles and get a good energetic response in their performance is based in no small part on your mitochondria9. In middle-age untrained men, 150 mg of Q10 per day was shown to increase their sense of energetic vigor10. A dose of 300 mg Q10 per day increased the ability of healthy people to perform strenuous exercise before reaching fatigue11 (100 mg was not enough to show a difference in this study). In a study with 10 patients who had documented genetic Q10/mitochondrial problems, 150 mg of Q10 each day for six months produced clinically measurable remarkable improvement in brain and muscle function12.
In serious issues of muscular dystrophies13, 100 mg of Q10 per day for three months produced clinically significant improvement in physical performance. The authors, in retrospect, believed the Q10 dose should be higher and recommended indefinite treatment with Q10 for any individual with any type of muscular dystrophy.
The immune cells required for “house cleaning” in patients with fibromyalgia, who have significant muscle aches and trouble exercising, have 40 percent less Q1014 in their cell membranes than healthy people. A preliminary study showed self-reported improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms15 in 64 percent of patients who took 200 mg of Q10 per day over a 12 week period.
In patients with chronic heart failure16 300 mg of Q10 per day strengthened the heart over a four week period, as did exercise. Q10 levels in the blood were elevated four times higher from the supplements, compared to the control group, and even higher when Q10 was combined with exercise (meaning exercise helps condition the use of Q10 – in other words, energy begets energy).
Q10, Exercise, and Fat Burning
Due to its combination of increased energy production and improved antioxidant function, Q10 is one of the best nutrients to take while on an exercise program. A 200 mg per day dose of Q10 has been shown to reduce free radical damage and boost time to exhaustion17 – Q10 levels during exercise directly related to oxygen utilization. Another human study showed that 90 mg of Q10 boosted fat burning18 during exercise.
To really understand how Q10 boosts fat burning during exercise it helps to understand a bit about the subject of uncoupling proteins. Human genome mapping has identified five primary metabolic uncoupling proteins (UCPs). A UCP disconnects normal cell-energy production and turns calories into 100 percent heat. In essence, this is a method of completely disposing of calories – a great way to lose weight if you can do it in a healthy way.
A well-known example of this is the metabolism of brown adipose tissue, or BAT. This type of fat tissue is totally different from the white adipose tissue that stores extra fat. It has many nerves flowing into it, as well as a blood supply, thus giving it a brownish color and its name. It is the only tissue in the body that contains UCP1.
UCP1 allows this tissue to turn a calorie into 100 percent heat. Normal cell energy production makes 35 percent heat and 65 percent energy in the form of ATP. Activation of BAT is naturally stimulated by an individual’s need to adapt to a colder temperature; the hallmark of its activation is the shiver response.
BAT is also stimulated by nerves, especially adrenaline. Since the 1980s, nerve stimulation of BAT has been a favorite target of many weight loss strategies that employ ephedra, caffeine, stimulant drugs, or some other type of nerve stimulant. The idea is that by stimulating BAT, extra fat calories will be melted away in the form of heat production.
We now know that this type of weight loss strategy is risky and prone to relapse. There are serious cardiovascular and kidney side effects from this type of excess and ongoing nerve stimulation. Too much nerve stimulation to lose weight invariably results in yo-yo dieting once the stimulation is stopped.
However, a different uncoupling protein called UCP3, which is found in your muscles, can also dispose of calories as heat. The great news is that it does this without any cardiovascular or kidney side effects or induction of the yo-yo response!
You can activate UCP3 by achieving better leptin control, by aerobic exercise19, by increasing overall antioxidant status20, and specifically by taking Q1021. Even walking 150 minutes a week can boost UCP3 activity in type 2 diabetic patients22.
This gives you another great tool to help speed up the clearance of fat. Take some Q10, do some aerobic exercise, and you will tend to notice a better metabolic and fat burning response.
Q10 is an important nutrient to assist energy production and your antioxidant defense system. It helps your nerve, cardiovascular, and muscle health; and metabolism. Along with other factors that comprise a healthy lifestyle, Q10 is a terrific nutrient to have on your anti-aging team.
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