Ubiquinol and ubiquinone are forms of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a vitamin-like compound naturally produced by the body. There has been a lot of debate about which form of CoQ10 (ubiquinol vs. ubiquinone) is the best to take based on the body’s ability to use it.
This article uses the available research to outline the differences between ubiquinol vs. ubiquinone and tackles the ongoing debate about which form is more effective: ubiquinol vs. ubiquinone.
You’ll also learn about who may benefit from taking a CoQ10 supplement, the appropriate dose for your situation, and food sources of CoQ10.
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What is CoQ10?
CoQ10 is a fat-soluble compound found in two forms, ubiquinol and ubiquinone. It is naturally made by the body and functions as an antioxidant and energy producer. CoQ10 is found in every cell in your body, but is most concentrated within the organs that require the most energy, including the heart, liver, brain, and muscle.
CoQ10 works in the body as an antioxidant by neutralizing free radicals which have the potential to cause damage to DNA, lipids, and proteins. For instance, CoQ10 can help prevent oxidation of the fat in our cells, including low-density lipoproteins (LDL). This can further help prevent the buildup of plaque in the arteries (known as atherosclerosis) and the narrowing or blocking of the arteries (known as coronary artery disease).
Additionally, CoQ10 plays a key role in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is essential for energy production and metabolism. (1)
The Difference Between Ubiquinol vs. Ubiquinone
Ubiquinol and ubiquinone are both forms of CoQ10 with slight differences in their molecular structure and actions in the body. The body likes to maintain a state of equilibrium, so it can convert ubiquinol to ubiquinone and vice versa depending on its needs at any given time.
Ubiquinol is the reduced form of CoQ10. It becomes reduced by gaining electrons. The electrons provide ubiquinol with antioxidant properties to prevent free radicals (oxidized compounds) from damaging the mitochondria, DNA, lipids, and proteins in the blood.
Ubiquinone is the oxidized form of CoQ10. It becomes oxidized by giving away electrons. The main function of ubiquinone is energy production and metabolism inside the tissues and cells in the body.
In general, CoQ10 in the blood exists as about 95% ubiquinol vs. 5% ubiquinone. (2,3) This is because the blood has a greater need for the antioxidant properties of ubiquinol. In contrast, the cells and tissues contain a higher proportion of ubiquinone compared to ubiquinol to meet their needs for energy production.
Effectiveness of Ubiquinol vs. Ubiquinone
Because ubiquinol has only been available since 2006, there haven’t been many studies on its effectiveness in comparison to ubiquinone. However, some research suggests that ubiquinol may increase blood levels of total CoQ10 more than ubiquinone. (4)
Most clinical trials have used ubiquinone because it’s been available for far longer than ubiquinol and is usually two to four times cheaper. Most studies have consistently shown positive benefits with taking a ubiquinone supplement.
In one study, heart failure patients had decreased heart-related mortality after supplementing with 300 mg/day of ubiquinone for two years when compared to placebo. (5)
Another study had healthy older adults supplement with 200 mg/day of ubiquinone plus 200 μg/day of selenium for four years and found that the participants had significantly reduced heart-related mortality and improved heart function. (6)
Who Should Supplement with CoQ10?
Because CoQ10 is an essential nutrient required by the blood, cells, and tissues in the body, it’s important to be aware of conditions or situations which may increase your need for CoQ10.
Some medications can prevent your body from making enough CoQ10, leading to a deficiency. Most notably, statin drugs are known to block the pathway in your body that makes CoQ10. (7)
Older adults may benefit from CoQ10 supplementation. As you age, you may have greater exposure to free radicals, your body may have a decreased ability to fight those free radicals, and your body produces less CoQ10 (an antioxidant needed to neutralize free radicals). (8)
Another reason you may need to supplement with CoQ10 is due to a genetic deficiency. There are 13 genes needed to make CoQ10, and mutations of any of them can inhibit CoQ10 production. Most people with this genetic disorder respond well to oral CoQ10 supplements, either ubiquinol or ubiquinone. (9)
If any of these factors pertain to you, you may want to consider supplementing with CoQ10 and to increase your intake of foods high in other antioxidants, like vitamins C and E and carotenoids, like beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. While CoQ10 is generally safe to supplement with, the other micronutrients listed are safest when obtained from food. (10)
CoQ10 Deficiency Symptoms
CoQ10 deficiency due to genetic mutations can include abnormal balance, gait, and arm and leg movements; altered vision; muscle pain and weakness; recurrent headaches; altered consciousness; loss of appetite; vomiting; seizures; and more. (11,12)
CoQ10 deficiency can also occur as a side effect of drugs, like statins, and with aging. The most common symptoms seen in these cases include exercise intolerance, muscle pain and weakness, and neurological changes. (13)
Benefits of Ubiquinol and Ubiquinone
CoQ10, ubiquinol vs. ubiquinone, may be helpful in several instances.
It can help manage blood pressure (14,15,16,17), diabetes (17,18,19,20,21), fibromyalgia (22,23), heart disease (24,25), heart failure (25,26,27,28), lung disease (29,30,31,32), migraine (33,34,35,36,37,38), and skin disorders, like cellular damage (39,40,41) and melanoma (42).
CoQ10 may also prevent the side effects associated with statin drugs (43,44), prevent or improve neurological disorders (45,46,47,48,49,50), potentially prevent cancer (51,52,53,54), and improve fertility (55,56,57,58) and exercise performance (59,60,61,62,63).
Check out this article, High Blood Pressure Snacks (with Recipes), for additional tips on managing blood pressure.
Safety of Ubiquinol and Ubiquinone Supplements
CoQ10 Side Effects
The following mild side effects have been reported with CoQ10 supplements, usually in doses of 600-1200 mg/day:
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Skin reactions
- Loss of appetite
- Gastrointestinal (diarrhea, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, stomach upset) (66)
These side effects can usually be avoided by splitting your CoQ10 supplement into 2-3 doses throughout the day. For instance, you can take a 30-100 mg dose with breakfast, lunch, and dinner to provide a total of 90-300 mg for the day. If you are taking a dose of 600 mg or more per day, you may want to split it into 4-6 smaller doses (100-150 mg/dose) throughout the day to help prevent any potential side effects.
CoQ10 During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
CoQ10 appears to be safe during pregnancy and may even be beneficial. In one study, pregnant women at risk for pre-eclampsia supplemented with 200 mg of CoQ10 (the form wasn’t identified) from week 20 until delivery. Compared to the placebo group, the women who took CoQ10 had significantly lower instances of pre-eclampsia. (67)
CoQ10 and Warfarin (Coumadin)
In some cases, CoQ10 may reduce the blood-thinning ability of Warfarin (Coumadin) and decrease the International Normalized Ratio (INR). (68,69) Speak with your prescribing provider before using CoQ10 or any other dietary supplement.
CoQ10 Food Sources
While your body makes its own CoQ10, you can still benefit from eating foods that contain CoQ10, especially as you age. However, it’s essentially impossible to obtain a similar amount of CoQ10 from food compared to supplements because most foods contain less than 3 mg per serving, with the exception of organ meats.
The following foods are the top sources of CoQ10:
- Organ meats:
- Heart (9.5-24 mg per 3 ounces)
- Liver (1.8-4.5 mg per 3 ounces
- Muscle meats: beef, chicken, pork (1.4-2.6 mg per 3 ounces)
- Fatty fish: herring, mackerel, sardines, trout (0.9-2.3 mg per 3 ounces)
- Eggs (0.1-0.4 mg per egg)
- Fruits and vegetables: avocado, broccoli, cauliflower, oranges, spinach, strawberries (0.1-0.5 mg per ½ cup)
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes: peanuts, pistachios, sesame seeds, soybeans (0.6-0.8 mg per ounce)
- Oils: canola, sesame, soybean (1-1.3 mg per tablespoon) (69,70,71)
The recommended dosage of CoQ10 varies between 50-400 mg per day and is based on factors including age and certain conditions you may have. Because your body doesn’t store CoQ10, daily supplementation is necessary for ongoing benefits.
According to integrative cardiologist, Dr. Stephen Sinatra, the following doses are recommended:
- 50-100 mg per day for healthy people under 60 years old
- 100-200 mg per day for people 60 years or older or those taking a statin
- 200-300 mg per day for people with a history of heart surgery, heart attack, or congestive heart failure (CHF)
Best Form of CoQ10
Based on the factors addressed above, let’s breakdown which is the best form of CoQ10, ubiquinol vs. ubiquinone.
In general, both ubiquinol and ubiquinone will help replenish CoQ10 levels in the body and provide many positive health benefits.
Studies have shown a slightly higher blood level of CoQ10 after supplementing with ubiquinol, though both forms, ubiquinol and ubiquinone, have produced similar results regarding disease prevention and treatment.
Due to the body’s ability to convert back-and-forth between ubiquinol and ubiquinone as needed and the possibility for ubiquinol to convert to ubiquinone inside the capsule, the cost may be the most important factor when deciding which form to take.
If the cost is not a factor for you, ubiquinol may be ideal considering the potential for a greater impact on CoQ10 levels and the antioxidant benefits.
However, if the cost is a deciding factor for you, you can rest assured that you can still reap the benefits of CoQ10 with potentially minimal difference in outcomes compared to ubiquinol.
How to Enhance Absorption of Ubiquinol and Ubiquinone
- Consume CoQ10 with a meal or snack that includes fat; since CoQ10 is fat-soluble, this is the easiest way to increase absorption
- Divide your total daily dose of CoQ10 into two or three smaller doses throughout the day
- Solubilized CoQ10 in a soft gel capsule may have superior bioavailability; you can look for the addition of MCT oil, vitamin E, or lecithin (3,72)
- Black pepper extract, also known as piperine or Bioperine, can enhance absorption (73)
Best Time to Take CoQ10
As mentioned above, you should take CoQ10 with a fat-containing meal or snack.
Outside of that, the timing doesn’t matter much, but you may want to avoid taking a CoQ10 supplement too close to bedtime. Some people find CoQ10 to be stimulating or make falling asleep difficult, so taking your last dose at least a few hours before you go to bed should help you avoid this potential side effect.
Final Conclusion on Ubiquinol vs. Ubiquinone
In summary, CoQ10 (ubiquinol vs. ubiquinone) has been shown to improve outcomes in and help prevent many disease states, improve exercise performance, and increase fertility. While ubiquinol may be more effective in theory, ubiquinone is likely to provide the same or similar results for a lower cost. If cost is not a concern, ubiquinol may potentially be more effective because it is the active form of CoQ10, so you don’t have to rely on your body to convert it.
However, the quality of the supplement you choose is important since ubiquinol can convert to ubiquinone if it’s not stabilized during formulation and manufacturing.
Either way, you can ensure optimal absorption by consuming your CoQ10 supplement with a fat source and black pepper (or its extract, piperine).
You can also obtain CoQ10 from food sources, though it will be more difficult to reach a therapeutic amount.
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