Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is one of the most widely consumed antioxidant supplements, but according to recently published research CoQ10 doesn’t function as commonly believed. Earlier this month, a team of researchers led by professor Siegfried Hekimi of McGill University (Canada) published their remarkable findings in Nature Communications. Specifically, they demonstrated that CoQ10 doesn’t behave as antioxidant and, thus, shouldn’t be marketed as an anti-aging supplement.
This spells bad news for the rapidly growing CoQ10 market, but good news for people genuinely interested in improved health. A recently published market research report suggests the global CoQ10 market will nearly double by 2020, ballooning to an estimated $850 million. This money would be much better spent on healthy food, which provides plenty of antioxidants.
Professor Hekimi explained, “Our findings show that one of the major anti-aging antioxidant supplements used by people can’t possibly act as previously believed. Dietary supplements cost a lot of money to patients throughout the world—money that would be better spent on healthy food. What’s more, the hope for a quick fix makes people less motivated to undertake appropriate lifestyle changes.”
CoQ10 is a lipid-like substance occurring naturally in all cells of the body. Cell mitochondria use CoQ10 to create energy from oxygen and various nutrients. In addition to this vital role, CoQ10 was also thought to behave as an antioxidant, hence being positioned as an anti-aging supplement.
The researchers experimented with a strain of mice unable to produce adequate amounts of endogenous CoQ10 and, therefore, requiring supplements. As expected, absent supplementation, those mice suffered severe illnesses and early death due to CoQ10’s vital role in energy production. Surprisingly, however, the scientists observed no signs of elevated oxidative damage when supplementation was suspended. This lack of damage, they determined, was not due to deployment of other antioxidant strategies. Eventually, they concluded that CoQ10 is not an antioxidant.
This study underscores a larger, more important issue with respect to supplements, particularly antioxidant supplements. Besides simply being ineffective, as per CoQ10, antioxidant supplements (or those marketed as such) can actually damage your health. Dr. Cordain has written extensively about the numerous randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses showing these products actually increase all-cause mortality. For example, a 2007 meta-analysis spanning 67 random controlled trials (232,606 participants) determined that antioxidant supplementation with vitamin E or vitamin A increases overall death rates.
For most people, the only supplements Dr. Cordain recommends (if any) are fish oil and vitamin D. And, whereas the recently published study shows CoQ10 is not an antioxidant, you might wonder whether it’s a worthwhile supplement based on CoQ10’s role in energy production. This is a valid question, but the answer is very simple and straightforward. By consuming a healthy Paleo diet, your cells will have all the CoQ10 they need. Dr. Cordain further points out that meat, poultry, and fish are concentrated sources of natural CoQ10.
Supplementation is a dangerous game because nutrients can easily be consumed excessively and in the wrong proportions with respect to other nutrients. Whole foods don’t have this problem. That’s why the Paleo diet emphasizes food while largely discouraging supplements.
Christopher James Clark, B.B.A. is an award-winning writer, consultant, and chef with specialized knowledge in nutritional science and healing cuisine. He has a Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan and formerly worked as a revenue management analyst for a Fortune 100 company. For the past decade-plus, he has been designing menus, recipes, and food concepts for restaurants and spas, coaching private clients, teaching cooking workshops worldwide, and managing the kitchen for a renowned Greek yoga resort. Clark is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book, Nutritional Grail.
 McGill University. (Mar 6, 2015). Popular antioxidant likely ineffective, study finds. ScienceDaily.