CoQ10 – Fact, Fiction, Hype, And Hocus-Pocus.
By Nurse Mark
I was speaking with a regular HealthBeat reader and WellnessClub member the other day, and she asked if I had seen an emailed article recently sent out by a group called “Off The Grid News” that purported to describe “A Dirty Secret About CoQ10.” She was understandably concerned about some of the claims and assertions made in the article. While I am familiar with the blog, having followed their often very good writings for several years, I had not seen this most recent post – but I promised I would look into it.
I didn’t have to look hard to find the email she referred to – and some things about it jumped out at me immediately.
First, it was not an article by Off The Grid News. In smaller print above the big, bold headline proclaiming status as a “Special Report” was this disclaimer: “Off The Grid News occasionally sends emails like this one to introduce major advertisers to our loyal readers and valued customers.”
So, this isn’t a true “news” article, it is a paid advertisement by a “major advertiser” – a company wanting to sell you something.
The advertisement, known in the ad industry as a “long-copy sales piece,” contains plenty of impressive-sounding information. Unfortunately, much of it falls into the half-truth and hype categories. There is however enough truth mixed in to make everything seem quite plausible and believable. It was well-written sales copy!
The ad starts by proclaiming that most doctors are unaware of the effects of CoQ10 deficiency (that may be so, though research into CoQ10 has been ongoing since it’s discovery over 50 years ago) and that Big Pharma is actively suppressing research on it.
Now, Big Pharma may be doing many bad things, but suppressing research on CoQ10 is not one of them.
In fact, when the first statin drugs were being tested in the 1980′s the pharmaceutical companies recognized that these drugs depleted CoQ10 levels, and combination drug that would combine a statin with CoQ10 was considered. This were turned down by the FDA and has not been offered since then because doing so now would be to admit there is a problem with statin drugs.
There are plenty of major studies both published and ongoing into the use and benefit of CoQ10 – and Big Pharma is actually involved in some of them. Big Pharma would love to figure out a new way to synthesize the stuff!
The ad goes on to say that CoQ10 “fuels your heart.” This one falls into the “half-truth” category. CoQ10 is involved in the metabolism and energy production of every cell in your body – that’s true. But it is not a “fuel” – it is a necessary player in the complex cellular process that allows your cells to use their fuel – which is either glucose or ketones.
The ad goes on to make much about “natural” versus “synthetic” CoQ10, telling us that we must use only the “trans-form” of CoQ10, and also that we must ensure that it was made using “yeast fermentation” because this is “the most effective form.”
This, again, is in the “mostly, partly true” category.
The ad then goes on to tell us why their brand of CoQ10 is the best because it meets all these requirements, is used by folks just like you (just read the testimonials!), is guaranteed to be wonderful, is really, really affordable, and it will make you feel younger and healthier than ever before.
Well, here is a very brief summary of what you need to know about CoQ10 so you can make an informed decision when you are shopping:
- CoQ10 was discovered in 1957. It is also known as “Ubiquinone.”
- In the mid 1970′s, a Japanese chemical company perfected industrial fermentation technology to produce pure CoQ10 in commercial quantities. This is known now as the “yeast fermentation” process and produces “trans,” or “natural” CoQ10.
- Until recently, almost all available CoQ10 was produced by this one Japanese company. There is now a manufacturing plant in the USA producing CoQ10 – it belongs to this same Japanese company, the Kaneka Corp.
- Japanese industrial giants Nissin, Asahi and Mitsubishi are also known to produce commercial quantities of high-quality CoQ10.
- The “reduced” form of Ubiquinone is called “Ubiquinol.” The body converts these substances back and forth in a cyclic manner as they each perform their specific functions in cellular metabolism.
- The CoQ10 form Ubiquinol tends to be unstable. Recent advances have allowed a more stable form of Ubiquinol to be made available and it is being marketed heavily as being “New” and “More Bio-Absorbable.”
- There is another form of CoQ10 that is produced from tobacco stems and potato leaves and is considered to be the “cis” form. It is known as “solanesol” and is widely produced as an alternative to “yeast fermentation” CoQ10 by manufacturers in Korea and China. It is cheaper but less effective and absorbable.
- There is also a fully synthetic analog of CoQ10 called “Idebenone” that is produced by a Swiss pharmaceutical company and marketed under the drug names Catena and Sovrima.
- Other research advances are promising us “more bio-available” forms of CoQ10, including water-soluble and “nano” forms – but for now much of this is marketing hype and wishful thinking.
The chemical giant Kaneka Corp. makes much of the high quality CoQ10 available today, in both the Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol forms. They have chemical factories in both Japan and Texas. They do not sell their CoQ10 directly to consumers – they sell to other supplement manufacturers who use it to formulate their own products.
Kaneka allows users of it’s CoQ10 to boast about this ingredient, taking advantage of Kaneka’s marketing and advertising efforts, by letting them use the trade mark “KanekaQ10™” on formulations which contain it. However, Kaneka does not require this branding, and some supplement manufacturers prefer not to disclose the source of their ingredients. If you see the trade mark “KanekaQ10™” on a product you can be sure that there is at least some of it present (but no guarantee how much…) – but if the trade mark is not there, the product may still contain either “KanekaQ10™” or a good quality CoQ10 from one of the other big manufacturers (Nissin, Asahi or Mitsubishi).
So, how can you know what you are getting, quality-wise? Price.
In the world of CoQ10, price, not promises, is still what determines quality.
The Japanese chemical giants tightly control pricing for CoQ10 – and even though retail prices have come down slightly since Kaneka Corp began manufacturing this substance in Texas, they have a very tight cartel in place to control wholesale pricing just as OPEC does with crude oil.
If you find CoQ10 supplements being sold at unusually cheap prices there will be a good reason – quality. The product may contain Chinese or Korean (or other) semi-synthetic CoQ10, or the amount of CoQ10 contained may not be what is on the label. Some unscrupulous manufacturers may use the trade mark “KanekaQ10™” on their formulations but actually put only a tiny amount in the product, making up the difference with another, cheaper form of CoQ10.
Beware also of couple of other common ploys: one promises novel new delivery systems or “improved bio-availability” that allows smaller amounts of CoQ10 to be “just as effective” as larger doses, and the other is to use nasty fillers, colorings, dyes, oils, preservatives and impurities in the creation of the product in order to keep costs as low as possible and profits high.
Is “Made in USA” a guarantee of quality? Maybe, maybe not.
We know that there is one chemical factory in Texas that makes CoQ10 – it is the very same company that makes the very same CoQ10 in Japan. If “Made In USA” means that the product is in fact made here of all US materials then this probably means quality is good. But a product made here with CoQ10 produced in Japan is likely to be equally good quality.
On the other hand, product “Made in USA” with CoQ10 and other materials from somewhere like China or Korea must be looked at with suspicion. How will you know? Again, price.
More CoQ10 “Hype” to beware of:
“bio-identical to that produced naturally within the body” – While this is true, it is just another way of saying that it is derived from yeast fermentation.
“up to 5 times greater absorption than other varieties” – Really? What “other variety” is that? Got proof? This may be true, but it is more likely hype.
So what can you believe?
CoQ10 – Ubiquinone – is a vital nutrient: no argument there!
Ubiquinol, the reduced form of Ubiquinone, is also a vital substance – that the body makes from Ubiquinone.
Only a very few people might benefit from using the reduced form, Ubiquinol, instead of Ubiquinone despite the advertising hype surrounding this newly available form of CoQ10. There is only one human study so far showing the effectiveness of this new form, versus the hundreds of peer-reviewed studies showing the effectiveness of Ubiquinone.
Dr. Jonathan Wright has jumped onto the Ubiquinol bandwagon but Dr. Alan Gaby, who lectures with Dr. Wright, prefers the tried-and-true form Ubiquinone. Given the hundreds of studies proving the benefit of Ubiquinone versus the one for Ubiquinol Dr. Gaby’s comment was: “when it comes to CoQ10, I’ll leave with the girl I came with!”
The molecules that are Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol are what they are: no amount of “improved bio-availability”, “nano-particle technology”, “micronization”, or other scientific-sounding mumbo-jumbo will make a better molecule. If the molecule is actually changed, then it’s not CoQ10 anymore!
As with any supplement, the most expensive supplement is the one that doesn’t work! Be sure to get the very best quality or you will be wasting your money – no matter how “good” the price is.
How can the average person negotiate the minefield of quality control when it comes to supplements like CoQ10?
Easy – you let someone like Dr. Myatt look after that for you. Known as “The Dragon Lady” in the supplement industry because of her no-compromise approach to quality, her medical knowledge and biochemistry background allow her to ask the hard questions and demand straight answers from her suppliers. She isn’t easily impressed, and is never swayed by hyper and advertising claims. If Dr. Myatt offers a product you can be sure that it meets her strict standards for purity, potency, and effectiveness! It may not be the cheapest, but you can be sure that it is the best – and is your health worth the cheapest, or is it worth the best?
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