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Ubiquinol - its benefits to heart health are proven by science

6 min read

Ubiquinol is the reduced form of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This is the form your body naturally uses, and research shows ubiquinol is superior for your health in a number of ways, primarily due to its superior bioavailability. It's particularly beneficial for your heart health by reducing markers associated with inflammation and by acting as an antioxidant in your blood to prevent atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).

Statistics report that heart disease claims more British lives than any other illness put together - this includes all cancers. And according to the British Heart Foundation, every day around 7 million people live with cardiovascular disease (CVD) while 435 people will lose their lives to a the illness and almost 200 will die of a heart attack. In light of these statistics, its no surprise then that statins, used to lower cholesterol, is the most widely prescribed drug in the UK and costs the NHS close to £300 million a year.

While we're often being told about diet and lifestyle changes to combat heart disease, it's less common to hear of a supplement that could make a difference to our heart health. It's here we introduce Coenzyme Q10  (or CoQ10) and ubiquinol...

What is ubiquinol and what does it do?

CoQ10 is used for energy production by every cell in your body, and vital for good health, high-energy levels, longevity, and general quality of life, it also helps protect against cellular damage from free radicals. Ubiquinol is the reduced form of CoQ10 - they're in fact the same molecule, but when CoQ10 is reduced it takes on two electrons, which turns it into what we call ubiquinol. 

Ubiquinol production ramps up from early childhood until your mid to late 20s. By the time you hit the age of 30, it begins to decline. Young people are able to use CoQ10 supplements quite well, but those over 25 years old do better with ubiquinol as it's more readily absorbed. Those over 40 are strongly recommended to take ubiquinol instead of CoQ10.

About 90% or more of the reactive oxygen species (ROS) in your body are produced in your mitochondria. You could think of mitochondria as an engine, the combustion (or metabolism) that takes place in there creates exhaust fumes which are essentially damage causing by-products. One of the functions of ubiquinol is to soak up these by-products. When ubiquinol levels are low, the by-products remain and begin damaging the cell.

While it can be beneficial for virtually everyone, especially if you're seeking to fight the natural ageing process and combat the lack of energy you experience as you get older, it's particularly important for those taking a statin drug. This is because when you take a statin drug, you deplete your body of the primary energy source for your heart and you also diminish the antioxidant protection for the various lipids in your blood, which are required for normal metabolism.

Natural sources of ubiquinol can be found in a wide variety of foods - the highest levels are present in organ meats such as heart, liver and kidney, but it's also present in beef, soy oil, mackerel and peanuts. However, the levels in such foods aren’t high enough to get the benefits we talk about in this post.

Reduces the side effects of statins

The heart is the most energy-demanding organ in your body so it's not difficult to understand how potentially devastating it can be to deplete your body's main source of cellular energy. While statins are used to ward off heart disease, you're actually increasing your risk when you deplete your body of CoQ10. Therefore, if you're on a statin, you should strongly consider taking ubiquinol to counteract the damage being inflicted by the drug itself.

Stats have shown that 25% of people taking statins have stopped after 6 months due to unwanted side effects, namely muscle aches and weaknesses. Statins lower levels of co-enzyme Q10 which is needed for energy production in muscle cells, so if energy production is reduced by lower production of CoQ10 this can cause muscle-related side effects.

In a study published in the journal Medical Science Monitor, statin users with muscle pain were given CoQ10 twice a day for a month compared to a control group given a placebo. Results showed that 75% of those on the CoQ10 reported reduced pain compared to no improvement in the placebo group. This prompted researchers to conclude that combining CoQ10 supplements with statins could perhaps help people stay on the treatment.

Traditionally, Coenzyme Q10 has been one of the most popular heart health supplements used by people taking statin medications to lower their cholesterol but now studies have shown that taking ubiquinol is the best way to return your total CoQ10 level to healthy levels if you are also taking statins. Research has shown, in fact, that ubiquinol supplementation over a period of six months can statistically, significantly reduce muscle pain and sensitivity by nearly 54%.

Reduces risk of heart disease

A marker for heart health is C-reactive protein. When C-reactive protein is showing as elevated it suggests you have a heightened risk for heart disease - this is because it's a marker for inflammation.  Two other markers for inflammation are gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), which is an early marker of heart failure, and NT-proBNP. There's an association between the levels of these markers and ubiquinol - when ubiquinol is supplemented these markers go down and genes associated with them are down-regulated.

Prevents heart attacks

Research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found supplementation with CoQ10 significantly reduced the likelihood of events like heart attacks by 43%. Another study found that people who took CoQ10 supplements on a daily basis within three days of a heart attack were less likely to have subsequent heart attacks and chest pain.

The study comprised 420 patients from around the world who experienced heart failure - half were given coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) while they other half were given a placebo. CoQ10 reduced the risk of patients suffering death or serious deterioration symptoms by 50%, including hospitalisation - only 29 patients in the CoQ10 group had such an event compared with 55 patients in the placebo group.

In addition, CoQ10 also halved the risk of dying from all causes, which occurred in 18 patients in the CoQ10 group compared to 36 patients in the placebo group.

Lowers blood pressure

In an review of 12 clinical studies, researchers reported that CoQ10 has the potential to lower blood pressure. The findings, published in the Journal of Human Hypertension concluded that taking CoQ10 could lower systolic blood pressure (that’s the number at the top of your blood pressure reading) by up to 17mm Hg ad diastolic pressure (the number at the bottom) by 10mm Hg without significant side effects.

Lowers cholesterol

A general but important heart health benefit of ubiquinol is that it also acts as an antioxidant in your blood, where it prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, thereby helping prevent atherosclerosis.

In those taking a statin drug, ubiquinol can be helpful because statins switch off production of coenzyme Q10 in the body and ubiquinol supplements can replenish these levels without affecting the cholesterol lowering action of the statin drug.

How much ubiquinol should you take?

Here is a handy breakdown for easy reference:

  • If you are under 30 and in good general health, try a dose of 30mg coQ10.
  • If you are aged 30 to 40 and in good general health, a dose of 60mg may be sufficient. If you are experiencing fatigue, reduced fertility, or are on a statin drug, try a dose of 100mg ubiquinol (or 200mg coQ10).
  • If you are aged 40 to 50 and in good general health, a dose of 100mg coQ10 may be sufficient. If you are suffering high blood pressure, are taking a statin or have heart problems, a dose of 200mg coQ10 or 100mg ubiquinol may be better.
  • If you are over the age of 50, a dose of 100mg ubiquinol is ideal.

Remember, CoQ10 and ubiquinol are fat soluble so are best taken with food to improve absorption. Please also note that it usually takes at least three weeks and occasionally up to three months to notice the full benefits.

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A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.