Ubiquinone is a fully oxidized coenzyme Q10. It has been found that the oxidized form, namely ubiquinone, is actively involved in the production of adenosine triphosphate and that is why it is called energy coenzyme Q10.
On the other hand, Ubiquinol is the reduced form, which by its nature neutralizes the free radicals and performs an antioxidant function, which makes it an antioxidant coenzyme Q10. Ubiquinol, as a reduced form of coenzyme Q10, exhibits strong antioxidant properties.
Studies have indicated that ubiquinol is more effective in suppressing the peroxidation in the mitochondria and it only functions as an antioxidant in the mitochondria, protecting them from damage and indirectly supporting the energy production.
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What's the Relation Between CoQ10 and Ubiquinol
Coenzyme Q10 is a fat-soluble substance, which has a structure resembling that of the vitamins. Coenzyme Q10 is naturally present in the body by performing its functions in the eukaryotes (cells with a nucleus and a plasma membrane), namely the mitochondria.
The primary function of coenzyme Q10 is its participation in the electron transport chain and the generation of the primary energy units in the body - adenosine triphosphate.
The antioxidant is especially important for the organs at great energy expense, so its concentrations are highest in the heart, liver, and kidneys.
As a substance, whose source is not only the human body but also food, coenzyme Q10 influences the metabolic reactions and depending on its condition, it has three different forms.
The most popular and widespread form is ubiquinone, which is fully oxidized coenzyme Q10. There is also the partially oxidized form, which is called ubisemiquinone. The latter form is ubiquinol, which is a fully reduced coenzyme Q10.
The difference between the oxidation and reduction is whether a molecule, atom, or ion lose or add electrons. During the oxidation, an electron is lost, and that increases the oxidative status, while in the reduction an electron is added and that regulates the oxidative state.
Namely, the ability of the antioxidant to exist in various phases of reduction and oxidation is the main reason why it is so essential for energy production and the antioxidant defense.
But despite their similar features, the two main forms of coenzyme Q10, ubiquinone and ubiquinol, have many differences.
What Is Ubiquinol and How It Is Distinguished
Ubiquinol is an electron-rich (reduced) form of coenzyme Q10.
It cannot be said that ubiquinol is the natural form of coenzyme Q10, since both forms, ubiquinol, and ubiquinone, are synthesized in the body and are contained in some food sources.
The features of coenzyme Q10 are connected with its possibility to change its reduced-oxidized state, as ubiquinol and ubiquinone participate in a common cycle, wherein they mutually displace their electrons.
This way both forms interact and influence each other in the discharge of their functions, which differ. It has been found that the oxidized form, namely ubiquinone, is actively involved in the production of adenosine triphosphate and that is why it is called energy coenzyme Q10.
On the other hand, Ubiquinol is the reduced form, which by its nature neutralizes the free radicals and performs an antioxidant function, which makes it an antioxidant coenzyme Q10.
In the normal condition of the human body, the ratio of ubiquinol and ubiquinone is 95% to 5%. Upon the increase of the oxidative stress, the levels of ubiquinol are reduced because it neutralizes the free radicals and it is transformed into ubiquinone.
Although they perform different active functions, both coenzymes Q10 are interconnected. Besides the fact that they transmit their electrons to each other, the intake of any of the two forms leads to increased levels of the other one in the body.
It has been found that with the oral intake of 100 mg and 200 mg of ubiquinone the plasma levels of ubiquinol get increased by 80% and by 150% respectively. The reverse conversion is also proven, as in all the cases both forms maintain a constant balance between them.
Besides the differences in the functions, ubiquinol and ubiquinone focus in different places in the cell membranes.
When not producing energy, ubiquinone concentrates in the middle of the second layer of the cell membranes, while ubiquinol is found in all other parts of the second layer; in this way, it protects the cell, including the mitochondria, against damage from free radicals.
This way ubiquinol can interact with other antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E, making them active again.
Sources of Ubiquinol
Ubiquinol is contained in large quantities in a variety of food sources that are both animal - and plant-based. In animal foods, the highest concentrations of ubiquinol are in beef liver, pork shoulder, chicken hearts, mackerel, and tuna.
Among the richest plant sources are parsley, broccoli, and oranges. There are large quantities of ubiquinol generally in meat (from 2.63 to 84.8 mcg/d), seafood (0.38 to 23.8 g/d), vegetables (0.17 to 5.91 mcg/d ) and fruits (0.22 to 3.14 g/d).
Proven and Potential Benefits
- Ubiquinol drastically improves the health status in the case of acute heart failure by exerting stronger properties than ubiquinone. In a comparative study, patients with acute heart failure were initially given an average of 450 mg of ubiquinone per day, after which the treatment was changed to an average of 560 mg of ubiquinol daily. The plasma levels of coenzyme Q10 got increased from 1.6 g ml to 6.5 mcg /ml, indicating two times greater improvement of the ejection fraction compared to ubiquinol.
- The more reactive antioxidant. The properties of coenzyme Q10 as an antioxidant are commonly known. Ubiquinol, as a reduced form of coenzyme Q10, exhibits strong antioxidant properties. Studies have indicated that ubiquinol is more effective in suppressing the peroxidation in the mitochondria and it only functions as an antioxidant in the mitochondria, protecting them from damage and indirectly supporting the energy production.
- Ubiquinol exhibits strong antioxidant activity in the suppression of lipid peroxidation. Its properties are close to those of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) and are superior to vitamin C and lycopene. A study claims that ubiquinol is more effective in suppressing lipid peroxidation even than alpha-tocopherol. However, more studies are needed regarding this comparison.
- In vitro and in vivo studies on animals demonstrate the potential benefits of ubiquinol for the lowering of inflammation. Ubiquinol positively influences the expression of the anti-inflammatory gene miR-146a, which is suppressed through metabolic pathways that are dependent on the proinflammatory cytokine nuclear factor-kappa-b. Ubiquinol also inhibits other pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor and two other chemokines.
- Wider impact on the DNA beneficial genes. In tests on rats, it has been found that ubiquinol positively impacts 11 genes that are associated with cholesterol and fat –protein metabolism while ubiquinone acts only on one.
- Against pathologically reduced ubiquinol levels. It has been found that in the case of enhancing the oxidative stress as a result of specific diseases there has been noted a drastic decrease in the plasma levels of ubiquinol, while the total amount of coenzyme Q10 has stayed not altered. This implies the need of the body for supplementation of ubiquinol to respond to the oxidative stress in conditions such as hepatitis, hematoma, and coronary artery disease.
- Against the age deficit of ubiquinol. Observations in adults indicate that when getting older the ubiquinol levels in the body decrease significantly, while those of ubiquinone are not affected so much. Also, the body becomes unable to produce ubiquinol from ubiquinone. This is one of the main reasons why manufacturers recommend the intake of ubiquinol to people, who have passed the age of 30, as ubiquinone would be inefficient.
- Ubiquinol shows a stronger protective effect than ubiquinol against the neurotoxic effect of MPTP, which affects the nerve cells in the same manner as in Parkinson's disease.
- Studies on animals with chronic kidney disease show the strong antioxidant properties of ubiquinol, as its concentrations in the kidney tissue are increased, and the action of the superoxide is inhibited.
Coenzyme Q10 has no side effects or toxicity. In fact, ubiquinol and ubiquinone have very low toxicity.
Tests have concluded that high doses, such as 3600 mg of ubiquinone daily, are non-toxic to healthy and ill individuals, but may cause side effects, associated with diarrhea and abdominal discomfort.
The recommended completely harmless limit is 1200 mg of ubiquinone daily. No evidence for the upper ubiquinol limit and its toxicity at high doses.
It has been shown that 900 mg of ubiquinol daily is completely harmless and does not exhibit side effects.
Absorption and Recommended Doses
There are different views on the potency and the complete absorption ability of ubiquinone, as in some studies it has shown positive results, while others have noted low absorption and the need for doses above 100 mg daily.
There are no adequate and reliable studies on the potency of ubiquinol.
One of the few purposeful types of research, which has reached positive results, has been sponsored by the company that owns the patent, Kaneka, and that brings some doubts to its reliability.
Nevertheless, a brief analysis of all the studies on ubiquinol can conclude that it is well absorbed through the intestinal tract and increases the plasma concentrations with oral intake from 90 to 300 mg daily.
Coenzyme Q10 is absorbed better when taken with food, rich in fat, and has lower digestibility when taken on an empty stomach. It has been found that its absorption increases when taken in the form of liquid dragees with fat content.
What to Combine Ubiquinol With
Ubiquinol is a powerful antioxidant, which can be combined with other strong antioxidants. Because of its properties to reactivate antioxidants such as vitamin E and vitamin C, their combination with ubiquinol is recommended.
Due to their beneficial properties associated with cardiovascular health and energy production, ubiquinol can be successfully combined with L-carnitine and fish oil.
Ubiquinol could be supplemented with fish oil, although the simultaneous intake of fish oil with antioxidants is deprecated, because of which they should be taken in different parts of the day.
The combination of L-carnitine or acetyl-L-carnitine would also be successful, as acetyl-L-carnitine helps to increase the plasma concentrations of ubiquinol.
Not recommended is the intake of ubiquinol with drugs from the class of the statins (cholesterol-lowering ones), medications for the lowering of blood pressure and beta-blockers.
Researchers have found that the intake of statins may reduce the serum levels of coenzyme Q10 by 40%. The additional intake of coenzyme Q10 during treatment with statins is still not studied.
Where Can We Find Ubiquinol
Ubiquinol has not acquired great popularity among consumers, as most doctors and consumers, who show a strong interest in food supplements or suffer from deteriorating health conditions, have more interest in it.
Due to its high price ubiquinol is almost not included in complex formulas such as multivitamins, antioxidants, and products for heart health.
In most cases, it is sold in the form of coated tablets or capsules with concentrations of 50 to 100 mg. Ubiquinol can be found in the ranges of healthy food supplements brands.