Tuesday, February 23, 2010

CoQ-10: The Ubiquinol vs Ubiquinone Debate

I remember when coenzyme Q-10(CoQ-10) raw material prices were sky high. I remember rejecting a huge of order of CoQ-10 because a supplier we inherited (when we bought the company) cheated on the amounts.

I remember when CoQ-10 became scarce after a big research study touting the benefits of CoQ-10 suddenly got mainstream attention. I remember scrambling to get CoQ-10 in stock during that time.

Notable was how dramatically the price for CoQ-10 raw material dropped after the patents expired and global competition kicked in. Since we serve many fixed income seniors (as well as some rather well-to-do value shoppers), the price drops were beyond welcome. They enabled customers to take higher doses of CoQ-10 that in-the-know doctors were starting to recommend for heart health.

Fast forward to 2009-2010. The big buzz is whether to take CoQ-10 in the ubiquinone form (the form studied for over three decades and also the less expensive raw material) or the ubiquinol form (the new patented form of CoQ-10, purportedly better at boosting serum levels of CoQ-10).

The promise with the new ubiquinol is that you can take smaller doses and get the same results as with higher doses of ubiquinone. Yes, there have been studies on rats that show ubiquinol to be superior to ubiquinone in boosting CoQ-10 for healthy cellular function and energy production.

Trouble is that no human studies have been done on ubiquinol yet; thus, the actual dosing is still up for debate.

The marketing campaigns claim that the ubiquinol form of CoQ-10 is more hydrophilic (more water soluble) than ubiquinone (but that's not saying much, as the form is still fundamentally fat soluble and it is debatable whether the ubiquinol claims are fact or fiction (see "Coenzyme Q-10 Facts or Fabrications" by Dr. William Judy.

Our independent laboratory testing director, a Ph.D. biochemist, agrees and says that the ubiquinol he has been testing is not proving to be as stable as the marketing campaigns would have your believe. I have found few people in my life who are right as often as our lab director is. He's a brilliant scientist and incredibly generous in sharing the very deep knowledge he continually amasses. Our lab director said not to bother with the more expensive material, as: (1) the body easily converts ubiquinone into ubiquinol in the body and (2) the more stable ubiquinone form is preferable for the money.

I have some notes out to our research consultants and a university professor of chemistry, who has done some very intriguing work on CoQ-10.

I'm not ruling out introduction of ubiquinol at some point but I'm also not ready to get on the bandwagon and offer something that is so much more expensive without having more confidence about stability and dosing.

Call me cautious but given the industry we operate in is filled with surprises, I prefer to feel confident in my own research. I like to go to sleep at night knowing that we are providing the best combination of nutritional efficacy and pricing possible.

Stay tuned for my next installment on the current CoQ-10 debate!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this information. I, also will wait before jumping on the band wagon without more definitive studies.
Donald Westbrooks

Daria said...

Several health newsletters that I subscribe to are making claims that most people over 50 do not convert ordinary CoQ10 (ubiquinone) into a usable form in the body. They also assert that research has shown ubiquinol to be absorbed up to eight times more readily. Being in the over-50 club myself, this seems important.
Daria Howell

Dr. Dawn said...

People with advanced congestive heart failure do better with ubiquinol, possibly due to absorption problems related to abdominal edema in these critically ill patients:

Ubiquinone is probably adequate and a better choice economically for most folks, but as this study cites, there are situations requiring the ubiquinol form due to absorption problems related to disease.

Cindy Marteney, CEO, Our Health Co-op said...

I hate to be cynical but I want to know if the studies with ubiquinol and ubiquinone were done with the appropriate carriers. Ubiquinol, being water soluble, is fine for administration with water, before meals, etc. Ubiquinone, being fat soluble, is only absorbable with fat and ideally with meals with fat (and not high percentages even at that).

So, I remain skeptical until convinced otherwise. There's an old Russian saying from the Cold War years: Trust but verify! Thanks to Daria and Dr. Dawn for your comments meanwhile.

I am open just need a bit more convincing, as even my expert consultants, at best, say there is certainly a serious debate rather than any kind of consensus about this topic among the best and brightest right now!

With that said, I KNOW that any time a paradigm is shifting, the experts often claim the new way as nonsense. I'm not in that camp, just cautious given our customers often have to make hard choices when they make purchases and higher expense is not a trivial concern for them when purchasing supplements.

Anonymous said...

I don't know where you got the idea that ubiquinol is water soluble. It isn't true!

Cindy Marteney, CEO, Our Health Co-op said...

Here's a correction to my original piece...the marketing on ubiquinol (the newer, more expensive patented form of CoQ-10) talks about ubiquinol being more hydrophilic (more water soluble). The reality is that "more" does not mean much more and the molecule is still lipophilic or "fat soluble."

Thanks...I've made the correction in my blog entry and added a piece that talks about facts versus fabrications about these two forms of CoQ-10.

Anonymous said...

Recent court filings by Kaneka, the patent holder of ubiquinol, and also a maker of ubiquinone, show the process to make ubiquinone or ubiquinol are basically interchangeable. Why does one cost five times more; because only ubiquinol is under patent protection making competition non-existent?

Sarah said...

I appreciate this article. It is hard to wade through the hype on supplements.

The fact that it is under patent right now tells me all I need to know. :)

Anonymous said...

Hello, I read on the internet, so not sure if true that the softgel form is better? Do you know if that is true? Or is it the same if you just take it with food/fat?