Antioxidant Function of CoQ10
In addition to its vital role for the cell of an energy carrier, CoQ10 plays another vital role in cellular function as an antioxidant. An oxidant is a substance that tries to take electrons from nearby substances. An antioxidant is a substance that gives up electrons easily, and so can function to neutralize oxidants. The antioxidant nature of CoQ10 derives from its energy carrier function. As an energy carrier, the CoQ10 molecule is continuously going through an oxidation-reduction cycle. As it accepts electrons, it becomes reduced. As it gives up electrons, it becomes oxidized. In its reduced form, the CoQ10 molecule holds electrons rather loosely, so this CoQ molecule will quite easily give up one or both electrons and thus act as an antioxidant.
Oxygen free radicals are oxidants that are produced normally in the body during metabolism and also under various stress conditions. They are called free radicals because they can combine easily with other substances to damage cell membranes and lead to significant pathology and diseases. Antioxidants like the well known vitamins C and E, as well as beta carotene are able to neutralize these free radicals. Coenzyme Q10 also functions as an antioxidant. As an antioxidant, it appears to help correct dietary deficiency of vitamin E in animal models, protects against the toxic effects of adriamycin, protects against low oxygen states which results in large amounts of free radical formation and reduce oxidative distress that often results from surgery.
What about the chemical structure of CoQ10? It is one member of a family of substances known as quinones. Quinones are widely distributed in nature, as they are essential for generating energy in living things that use oxygen. This ubiquitous nature of these quinones has led some scientists to refer to them as ubiquinones. All of the CoQ molecules have a head to which is attached a tail. This tail can have from one to 12 repeated units. Humans have only one type of CoQ, which has 10 repeated units and is therefore called Coenzyme Q10.
History of CoQ10
Coenzyme Q10 was discovered in the United States in 1957 by Prof. FL. Crane at the University of Wisconsin. A year later in 1958, the chemical structure was reported by Dr. D. E. Wolf, under Dr. Karl Folkers at Merck Laboratories. Dr. Folkers has continued to research CoQ10 over the years and in 1986, he was awarded the prestigious Priestly Medal of the American Chemical Society for his research into CoQ and other nutrients. I heard Dr. Folkers lecture in the mid 80's at an ACAM conference on the role of CoQ10 in treating congestive heart failure and other heart conditions. In the spring of this year, I again heard Dr. Folkers, now 83 years old, talk about CoQ10 at an ACAM meeting in Minneapolis. This time he amazed the ACAM physicians by describing some cases of breast cancer that completely regressed on doses of CoQ10 of 300 to 400 mg daily. He also was critical of most of the available CoQ10 products, which are in the form of powdered CoQ10 capsules. Since CoQ10 is fat or lipid soluble and not water soluble, he said that this form of CoQ10 was not very bio available and would not be absorbed from the intestine. He recommended supplements that contained CoQ10 dissolved in oil. Since that time, a number of new CoQ10 products have hit the market. An oil liquid form is now available and chewable wafers of CoQ10 combined with fatty acids has also been released by several companies.