These days it’s not unordinary for ingredients in beauty products to mimic those found in your typical botanical garden or on your dinner plate. But even born-in-nature items come with a hefty list of things they’re comprised of (just check out this “ingredient label” on the banana). So, when I saw Coenzyme Q10 (or CoQ10 for short) start to show up not only in supplements, but also in beauty products, I wanted to get to the bottom of what it did and why it was used.
It was originally discovered in 1957, but really began being incorporated into products in the 1990s. As with most things in beauty, what’s old is new again, and so here we are finding it in all sorts of products, including one Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner, which I began to incorporate into my routine. The ingredient is said to be an antioxidant that is critical for your body’s collagen and elastin production. What else can it do? I contact the pros to find out.
What is Coenzyme Q10?
“Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is an energy nutrient and antioxidant that is found in most foods and that’s made naturally by the human body in the liver,” says Jennifer Hanway, holistic nutritionist. “It is classified as an ubiquinone, because it’s ubiquitous in human tissues and found throughout the body, the highest levels being in the organs of high metabolic function, including the heart, kidneys, and liver.”
Basically coenzymes are compounds in the body that are neither vitamins or minerals, but work to speed up the enzymatic process, according to her. To get scientific here, its main biochemical purpose is as a cofactor in the electron-transport train—but in layman’s terms, that means it’s an essential component for energy production and the healthy and efficient functioning of the mitochondria within every cell of your body, which in turn affects all of your tissues and organs.
“It’s one of the most abundant lipid—AKA fat soluble—antioxidants, and it’s important in combatting the destructive effects of free radicals and the degeneration of our DNA,” says Hanway. That explains why you see it in skin-care and beauty supplements.
What are its benefits?
CoQ10 is your inner rockstar for giving you energy, metabolizing your diet, and handling your heart’s functionality. “Primarily, CoQ10 is beneficial for metabolism and energy production, and it’s especially important for the efficient function of the heart—and the heart cells produce more energy than any other organ,” Hanway explains. “It’s also key for the kidneys and the liver.”
The coenzyme’s got some beauty-boosting prowess as well. While it’s used often as a supplement, it also appears on topical ingredients labels. “CoQ10 can make the skin look younger, but unfortunately as you age, the levels throughout all of your cells decrease,” says Julie Russak, MD, a dermatologist from Russak Dermatology Clinic. “The lack of CoQ10 results in decreased levels of collagen and elastin, which in return, causes your skin to wrinkle and sag. Using topical skin-care products with the coenzyme can be very beneficial, as it acts as a strong antioxidant.” Another perk? It helps to neutralize free radicals, AKA a major cause of aging.
What are the side effects of taking CoQ10?
When you’re taking CoQ10 as a supplement, Hanway notes that most medical opinions state that there are no serious side effects. “However, there have been some reports of mild digestive issues, nausea, and insomnia.”
If you’re looking to try it out, be sure to check with your doctor first (as with every supplement). “CoQ10 may interact with the anticoagulant Warfarin, a blood thinner, and the diabetes drug insulin,” says Hanway. “It may not be compatible with some types of cancer treatment, either. As with any supplement, it’s best to check with your healthcare provider before taking.”
As with most supplements, you can get the nutrient via your diet, too. For CoQ10, it’s all about meat. “The highest levels of CoQ10 are found in animal proteins, especially in organ meats such as heart and liver,” says Hanway. “Varying amounts are found throughout the muscle meats of pork, chicken, and beef, with beef having the highest amounts, as well as oily fish such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel.” So hit up your nearest steakhouse or sushi bar.
For the plant-based eaters, you can also get the coenzyme through extra virgin olive oil, peanuts, sesame seeds, and pistachio nuts.
Hanway notes that there’s no official recommended daily allowance for CoQ10, and that factors such as age, health status, and activity levels should be taken into consideration. If you’re looking to get the nutrient through food, she says that a varied diet including some organ meats on a weekly basis will help ensure you absorb CoQ10. “Vegans or those who don’t regularly eat meat or fish may want to consider supplementation, as may those who have lower energy levels and those wishing to support their cardiovascular health.”
There is no recommended RDA for CoQ10, and age, health status and activity levels should always be taken into consideration. “CoQ10 expert Peter H. Langsjoen also explains that there can be big differences in absorption rates,” says Hanway. “However, some researchers suggest 30-60 mg may be beneficial, and some research shows that higher levels may have a positive impact on cardiovascular health.”
CoQ10 can also be particularly good to take if you’re older or highly stressed. “People over the age of 55, those under high levels of stress, taking prescription drugs, and those on statins may also want to consider taking a higher amount,” says Hanway. “And, as a lipid antioxidant, it should be taken with a meal containing some fat for optimal absorption.”
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