Why I Won’t Take Most CoQ10 Supplements — And You Shouldn’t Either

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

October 28, 2019



You probably already know quite a bit about coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). I’ve written about it many times. It’s a super nutrient.

However, there are some problems with CoQ10 supplements that most people don’t know about yet. Sometimes they don’t even work. And since CoQ10 is a fairly expensive nutrient, you might be wasting your money on supplements. But here’s how to get every penny’s worth out of the CoQ10 you buy.

As you may know, CoQ10 is the richest antioxidant in your cells. Your cells must have it in order to produce energy. That includes the cells of your heart, which is why it’s such a powerful remedy for heart failure. But it’s good for your brain too. In fact, it can slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease by up to 44%.

You may have noticed that there aren’t a lot of teenagers who suffer from heart failure or Parkinson’s. In many ways, that’s because, when you’re young, your body makes enough to handle all of your CoQ10 needs. However, your production peaked at age 20. From there on, it’s all downhill. Each year that passes, your body makes less and less. The decline accelerates and is noticeable by age 40. This is especially true in your skin, where restoring levels might protect you from skin aging and cancer.

Unfortunately, restoring your CoQ10 levels is hard. It’s tough to get CoQ10 from your food. Yes, many foods contain the nutrient – just not a lot of it. For instance, peanuts are one of the richest sources of CoQ10. But you’d have to eat 15 pounds of peanut butter to get just 100 mg. That’s just not feasible.

So to really restore your levels, you have to get CoQ10 from supplements. That’s why the CoQ10 market has boomed in the last 20 years. Over $400 million of CoQ10 supplements are sold each year. In Japan, it’s an approved “drug” for congestive heart failure.

Yes, supplements can boost your levels. But most CoQ10 supplements have some serious limitations.

Problems With CoQ10 Supplements

You can buy CoQ10 at just about any health food store or grocery store. They’re rather expensive. And most of these forms of CoQ10 are the oxidized form — ubiquinone. The problem with ubiquinone is that only about 4% of a standard oral dose of it is actually bioavailable. As a result, your body doesn’t absorb the nutrient very well.

Because it’s so poorly absorbed, some people need enormous doses in order to achieve the increased blood levels necessary to make a difference in disease. I know people who have to take up to 3,000 mg a day to get the desired effects. Standard supplements range from 20-200 mg. So they have to take a lot of pills.

It’s usually worth it, because it’s such a potent heart and brain protector. In fact, 1,500 peer reviewed studies prove its power.

Another problem is that your body has to convert it to the reduced form – called Ubiquinol – in order for it to work.

In your blood, 95% of CoQ10 is Ubiquinol. It helps regenerate vitamin E. It protects you against cholesterol oxidation (the real cholesterol problem) better than other major antioxidants. Diabetics have an amazing 75% less Ubiquinol, as compared to healthy people. And diseased organs suffer severely from depleted Ubiquinol. In fact, chronic disease is a major cause of CoQ10 deficiency. This is why Ubiquinol is the best form of CoQ10.

But Ubiquinol Has Its Own Problem

In supplement form, Ubiquinol oxidizes easily (as do many nutrients on exposure to oxygen) to ubiquinone.

Oxidation is what happens when you expose sensitive tissue to oxygen. You’ve probably seen how the glossy white flesh of an apple can turn rusty after a short while. Well, Ubiquinol does the same thing, only faster. Ubiquinol is white. That’s because it is reduced, carrying two extra electrons. This makes a gigantic difference in absorption and, more importantly, its use in your cells. Conventional CoQ10, by comparison, is orange. That’s because it’s oxidized.

As a result of this oxidation, for a long time, it was impossible to find Ubiquinol commercially.

Breakthrough Yields Stable Ubiquinol

But several years ago, researchers made a huge breakthrough with CoQ10. They developed a new form of stable Ubiquinol. It doesn’t oxidize as easily. But their studies prove that it’s far more bioavailable. Compared to conventional CoQ10, Ubiquinol plasma levels jumped 50% in younger people. It rose even more in older folks.

In one study, researchers gave Ubiquinol to children at 1-10 mg/kg weight. That’s like 700 mg for an adult. Their serum levels were comparable to doses of conventional CoQ10 at 2,400-3,000 mg per day. Ubiquinol has increased blood levels to a higher level than in any previous work on conventional CoQ10.

Other studies show that just 150 mg of Ubiquinol will provide you the same blood levels of active CoQ10 as 1,200 mg of “enhanced delivery” conventional CoQ10. (And 1,200 mg of conventional CoQ10 was the largest dose used in all the Parkinson’s studies.)

One impressive study showed that taking 300 mg of Ubiquinol for four weeks caused a “markedly high” serum level of 8.413umol/L. This was an 11-fold increase over baseline. That’s just not something you see with ubiquinone. The authors stated that “solubilized Ubiquinol is the best of all (forms of CoQ10).”

So What Does This Mean For You?

First of all, it means you can live longer because CoQ10 is one of the best disease destroyers on the market. Let me explain.

In several studies that have come out in recent years, researchers found that CoQ10 reversed the accelerated cell death (called apoptosis) associated with the aging process. As you age, the cells die quickly and accelerate your body’s decline. Because these studies say CoQ10 reversed this trend, many researchers have assumed that taking supplements of CoQ10 will slow down aging. But that assumption may be wrong.

As you may know, in my clinic, I have the ability to measure the aging process. I do this using a technology called Bio-Energy Testing. And what I have discovered is that CoQ10 supplements rarely if ever slow down aging. So I stopped using CoQ10 to slow down aging. And I’m glad I did. Recently, a published study has verified my observations.

In this study, researchers gave mice supplements of CoQ10. Then they determined the effects on their mitochondria and their life span. As expected, the supplements increased the levels of CoQ10 in the mitochondria of their liver, heart, kidney, skeletal muscle, and brain. However the life span of the mice on CoQ10 was no longer than those mice without the supplements.

The authors concluded that contrary to the historical view, supplemental intake of CoQ10 has no discernible antioxidant effect in most tissues. And it “has no impact on the life span of mice.”

The moral – taking CoQ10 supplements does not act to slow down the aging process. You can slow down and even reverse the aging process with the right combination of therapies for your particular body. But CoQ10 supplements won’t do it.

However, taking CoQ10 can help you live longer. Here’s how: While CoQ10 doesn’t slow down the aging process, it is a very valuable way to treat and prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, and many other diseases (including brain diseases). In these ways, it can increase your life span. But it doesn’t do so through the aging process – it does so by beating disease. Just look at some of the evidence for CoQ10.

Beating Heart Disease

A healthy 52-year-old woman was taking 300 mg of conventional CoQ10. She had a plasma level of 2.5mcg/ml, with 0.7% in the inactive oxidized form. After one month of Ubiquinol at the same dose, her levels rose to 5.2mcg/ml with 0.5% oxidized. And that was in just one month. More encouraging, her Ubiquinol-to-cholesterol ratio doubled. They found much more active CoQ10 present to protect her cholesterol from dangerous oxidation. That could bring arterial damage to a screeching halt! You’ll see that in the next case.

A 65-year-old man had advanced ischemic cardiomyopathy. He was on maximum medical therapy. He was taking diuretics, beta blockers, Coumadin, and he had a biventricular pacemaker. He was in the end stage of heart failure and going straight downhill fast. He had fluid backed up in his lungs and legs. He was drowning in his own blood. He was in the hospital more than he was out.

In June 2006, he was taking conventional CoQ10 – 450 mg per day in soybean oil. His plasma CoQ10 level was sub therapeutic at 1.6mcg/ml. His heart ejection fraction was a lethal 15%. (That means his diseased left ventricle was pumping out only 15% of its blood volume compared to a healthy heart’s 60%). His doctor switched him to Ubiquinol at the same dose.

Within three months, his plasma CoQ10 level increased to 6.4mcg/ml. In the fourth month, his ejection fraction jumped to 35-40%. He had a mitral valve leak that significantly improved. He could discontinue diuretics and his functional status was much better.

Three months later, his ejection fraction increased yet more to 45%. That’s triple what it was! He had become quite active by now and required no more hospital admissions. The cardiologist noted that this was the most striking case of improvement he had seen in his 25-year career. Here was a man already on CoQ10 and dying.

On the right CoQ10, his numbers improved to a level compatible with a very comfortable life and modest exertion level.

Approximately 62% of people with cardiovascular disorders are deficient in CoQ10. And correcting the deficiency with supplemental CoQ10 is a very effective treatment.

CoQ10 improves the condition of 91% of heart attack patients within 30 days. It should be immediately used in all of these patients. By taking Ubiquinol, you can reverse even advanced heart disease.

And 39% of hypertension patients are found to be deficient in CoQ10. It lowers blood pressure in hypertension patients by normalizing the body’s sodium/potassium ratio. In human trials, an average daily dosage of 225 mg of CoQ10 per day caused a reduction in systolic blood pressure from 159 to 147 mm/Hg, and a reduction in the average diastolic blood pressure from 94 to 85 mm/Hg within three to four months.

Because it improves the heart’s ability to survive and produce energy in stressful conditions, CoQ10 is also very beneficial for persons about to undergo heart surgery.

CoQ10 helps to prevent stroke and increases the lifespan of people who have experienced a stroke.

CoQ10 is also very valuable in many other conditions, especially cancer treatment and prevention. CoQ10 increases the life expectancy of cancer patients by suppressing the proliferation of cancer cells. It also boosts the immune system chemicals called cytokines that attack cancer cells.

All cancer patients should take this nutrient. CoQ10 works especially well against breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, throat cancer, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer.

Who Else Should Take CoQ10

CoQ10 levels typically start to decrease after the age of 50, so I routinely check the levels at this point. I don’t tell my patients to take CoQ10 to help hold off the aging process – I use other supplements to do that. Rather, I give them CoQ10 to help keep them disease free so they can thoroughly enjoy all the years they have left.

If you’re over 50, you likely need to take CoQ10. I recommend you take the highly absorbable form Ubiquinol. If you want to know if you need CoQ10, any lab can check your levels. It’s a common blood test. The reference range is 0.5 to 1.5 mcg/ml, but I like my patients to take enough to have a level over 1.0.


Folkers, K., et al. “Evidence for a deficiency of coenzyme Q10 in human heart disease.” Int J Vit Res., 40:380, 1970.

Mortensen, S.A., et al. “Long term coenzyme Q10 therapy: a major advance in the management of resistant myocardial failure.” Drugs Exp Clin Res. 11(8):581-593, 1985.

Sohal, RS, et al. “Effect of coenzyme Q10 intake on endogenous coenzyme Q content, mitochondrial electron transport chain, antioxidative defenses, and life span of mice.” Free Radic Biol Med, 2006 February 1;40(3):480-7. Epub 2005 November 9.

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