In cells, the conversion of sugars, fats, and proteins to energy takes place over a series of reactions. Several molecules are involved in the process. One molecule that is particularly important in the electron transport chain is Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10. This compound is present in nearly all cells. Due to its nearly universal presence and chemical structure, it is commonly referred to as ubiquinone. CoQ10 is synthesized by cells from precursor molecules, so dietary supplementation of CoQ10 isn’t essential, but it doesn’t hurt to consume foods containing an abundant supply of this compound either. The effects of decreased biosynthesis of CoQ10 and symptoms of certain diseases may improve through a diet rich in CoQ10.
What Are the Beneficial Properties of CoQ10?
CoQ10 is essential for the energy producing functions of the mitochondria of every cell in the body. It acts as an electron donor and acceptor. By doing so, it becomes oxidized and reduced. There are three forms of CoQ10. The fully reduced form is labeled as CoQ10H2, while the fully oxidized form is CoQ10. In between these two forms, there is an intermediate form that is described as a semiquinone and has the shorthand notation of CoQ10H+.
In the mitochondria, CoQ10 is located in the inner mitochondrial membrane. As fatty acids and glucose are metabolized, unstable molecules develop and they require an electron acceptor to receive their extra electron. CoQ10 receives and then passes this electron to molecules that will accept them.
The second function of CoQ10 in the mitochondria is to create the proton gradient that will generate energy. It does this by pumping protons out of the interior portion of the mitochondria. As the protons flow back across the membrane, ATP is formed. This molecule contains the energy used by cells for biological processes.
CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant. The reduced form is abundant in the cell membrane and it is believed to prevent lipid peroxidation, especially with LDL. It may also be responsible for protecting proteins and DNA from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. CoQ10 also interacts with vitamin E to boost its antioxidant properties.
Another function of this fat-soluble compound is to maintain the proper environment within lysosomes, which are digestive organelles that consume cellular debris. The pH of lyosomes are much more acidic than the cytoplasm of the cell. To maintain this pH difference, CoQ10 transports protons across the membrane.
Most of the CoQ10 in the body is synthesized by cells, while a lesser portion of available CoQ10 is derived from food sources. There are several which contain this antioxidant.
CoQ10 in Meats
CoQ10 is most abundant in tissues that require a lot of energy to function. This includes many of the vital organs such as the heart and liver. In livestock, these organs are the best options for CoQ10. Pork heart, beef heart, pork liver and beef liver are abundant in CoQ10. A three ounce serving of beef contains about 2.6 mg of CoQ10, and a three ounce serving of chicken contains about 1.4 mg of CoQ10.
CoQ10 in Fish
Another great source of CoQ10 is fish. A three ounce serving of marinated herring contains about 2.3 mg of CoQ10. Steamed rainbow trout has a CoQ10 content of 0.9 mg in a three ounce serving. Mackerel, sardines and yellowtail are a few more seafood sources of CoQ10. Avoid frying the fish during preparation since this cooking method reduces the amount of CoQ10.
CoQ10 in Oils
Oils are a good source of CoQ10, but some processing methods may reduce the amount significantly. A one tablespoon serving of soybean oil contains about 1.3 mg of CoQ10, while a one tablespoon serving of canola oil contains about 1.0 mg of CoQ10. Rapeseed oil, sesame oil and cottonseed oil contain CoQ10 as well.
CoQ10 in Nuts and Beans
Another source of CoQ10 is nuts and beans. These include soybeans, azuki beans, hazelnuts, sweet almonds and chestnuts. One ounce of roasted peanuts consists of 0.8 mg of CoQ10, while roasted pistachios have about 0.6 mg of CoQ10 in a one ounce serving. Roasted sesame seeds contain 0.7 mg of CoQ10 in a one ounce serving.
More Foods With CoQ10
There are several more foods that contain coenzyme Q10, but in lesser quantities. Rice bran, sweet potato and eel contain some CoQ10. A 1/2 cup of broccoli has 0.5 mg of CoQ10 and a 1/2 cup of cauliflower has about 0.4 mg of CoQ10. Oranges, strawberries and boiled eggs contain even lesser amounts of CoQ10.
1. “Coenzyme Q10.” Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/othernuts/coq10/
2. “Coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone).” https://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/Coenzyme-Q10.html