Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ranking the best CoQ10 supplements of 2016 (review)

Do you want to tune up the energy level of your heart and muscles?

That’s what is promised by a supplement called Coenzyme Q10, or  CoQ10 for short.

Part 1 reviews the best CoQ10 supplements on the market. Part 2 is a CoQ10 guide that breaks down what the supplement is and how you should take it.

Here we go:

1.  Kirkland Signature CoQ10

coq10For simple, straightforward, and reliable supplements, Kirkland Signature brand is very often a good bet.  This is the case with their CoQ10 offering: the gel capsules provide 300 mg of Coenzyme Q10 for a good price, and their purity is top-notch too.

Independent lab testing confirmed that the actual amount of CoQ10 per capsule is 302 mg, within one percent of the label-stated amount.

The solvent it uses to dissolve the fat-soluble CoQ10 is soybean oil, which should not cause any problems unless you have a soy allergy.  The capsules are gelatin, so again, vegetarians beware.

The other inactive ingredients include glycerin and soy lecithin, which help emulsify the oil solution, as well as vitamin E as a preservative and titanium dioxide as a coloring.

There really isn’t much else to cover with regards to Kirkland’s CoQ10 offering: it’s nothing fancy or flashy, but it gets the job done, and it comes in a high-dose capsule, which is convenient if you know you want to take a higher daily dosage of Coenzyme Q10.

2.  Bulk Supplements Pure Coenzyme Q10

Bulk Supplements has made a name for itself in inexpensive, high-quality, and high-purity supplements.  Its CoQ10 formula comes in a simple foil bag with an adhesive nutrition info label stuck on it; no fancy packaging to be seen here.

Its ingredients list is similarly Spartan: there’s only one! That’s right, Coenzyme Q10, in the ubiquinone form, is the only ingredient in this formulation.  It’s provided in a loose powder, so you’ll need a micro-scale to accurately measure out your serving size.

Scientific analysis shows that over 98% of the product is pure CoQ10, which is a good thing—that’s all you’re paying for.  The Bulk Supplements CoQ10 offering is a good fit if you really know what you’re doing—not only will you have to measure you your own servings every day with a micro-scale, you’ll also have to make sure you’re delivering them to your body in an effective and absorbable way.

Ingesting it alongside some fat, like olive oil, is a good place to start, seeing as CoQ10 is not water-soluble.  You can’t just mix it into your protein shake and expect it to dissolve.

Despite these functional drawbacks, the price and quality is very hard to beat.  If you are a seasoned supplement pro, this is definitely the choice for you.

3.  Nature’s Bounty Extra Strength CoQ10

Nature’s Bounty is a brand you’re apt to find at your local pharmacy, drug store, or big-box retailer.  The “extra strength” formulation contains 200 mg of coenzyme Q10 per capsule, so if you are looking for a higher dose (especially if you’d rather not split it into two separate capsules), it’s a good choice.

It’s fairly simplistic: it does not contain any other herbal extracts for flavoring or absorption-boosting purposes, and aside from the CoQ10 in each tablet, the only other ingredients are rice bran oil (a solvent to dissolve the fat-soluble CoQ10), gelatin and vegetable glycerin for the capsule, and soy lecithin and titanium dioxide for use as an emulsifier and colorant, respectively.

None of these ingredients should raise any alarm bells unless you are a vegetarian or vegan, in which case you’re SOL—gelatin is animal-based.

Purity-wise, it scores quite well: analytical testing determined that each capsule contains within three percent of the 200 mg stated dose.  For whatever reason, the top CoQ10 supplements seem to score better on quality ratings than other supplement offerings, even from respectable brands.

4.  Doctor’s Best High Absorption CoQ10 with BioPerine

The CoQ10 supplement by Doctor’s Best is the #1 seller on, and you’re also likely to find it at your local drug store.  It contains 100 mg of Coenzyme Q10 per capsule, dissolved in a non-GMO olive oil solution.

This is vital, since CoQ10 is fat soluble, not water soluble.  Uniquely, Doctor’s Best also contains black pepper extract, which is claimed to enhance absorption and bioavailability.

Surprisingly, there is some solid science behind this—a study published by commercial researchers for the Sabinsa Corporation found that co-supplementing CoQ10 with black pepper extract increases the levels of CoQ10 in your blood over the course of a 21 day course of supplementation (1).

Its purity is good, with lab testing showing the stated amount of CoQ10 on the label was within three percent of the actual lab-verified amount.  In terms of other inactive ingredients, Doctor’s Best CoQ10 contains soy lecithin, beeswax, and gelatin as stabilizers, since the supplement comes in a soft-gel format.

It also contains rosemary oil for flavoring, scenting, and as a natural preservative.  None of these ingredients should cause any issues unless you have a severe soy intolerance or are a vegetarian.

5.  Viva Labs CoQ10

The highly-rated and best-selling CoQ10 supplement from Viva Labs is very simple and pure.  It provides 100 mg of CoQ10 per capsule, alongside 5 mg of black pepper fruit extract to boost absorption of the CoQ10.

As with some of the other CoQ10 supplements on the market, Viva Labs cites work by corporate researchers showing that black pepper extract enhances the activity and availability of CoQ10 (2).

Viva Labs CoQ10 also comes dissolved in olive oil inside a soft gel capsule, which is stabilized by gelatin, glycerin, and beeswax.

Beyond these, the only other ingredient is purified water.  To no surprise, Viva Labs CoQ10 scores well on purity testing; independent lab testing found that each capsule contains 104.5 mg of CoQ10, so the variance from the label stated amount is less than five percent.

Perhaps because of the simplicity of the ingredients, Viva Labs CoQ10 provides some of the best value in terms of quality and quantity of CoQ10 per dollar spent.  By avoiding superfluous ingredients and flashy marketing, Viva Labs can deliver a lower-cost product to the consumer.

6.  NutriONN Extra Strength CoQ10

The Coenzyme Q10 supplement made by NutriONN is potent, pure, and simple.  Each capsule contains 200 mg of CoQ10; there are only three other ingredients—gelatin, rice flour, and magnesium stearate, a binder which facilitates the release of CoQ10 from the capsule.

This means NutriONN is a great option if you have a soy allergy, since many other CoQ10 supplements include soy in some form or another.  It’s also a good choice if you want to minimize any untested chemicals going into your body.

In independent lab testing, NutriONN CoQ10 was found to contain 196 mg of CoQ10 per capsule—within four percent of its label-stated amount of 200 mg.  This combined with how few other ingredients the supplement has puts this one squarely in the minimalist category.

This simplistic philosophy applies to its branding and marketing too; it doesn’t have flashy packaging and isn’t a top-seller, but that shouldn’t keep you from looking into it—it’s a solid product worth considering.

7.  Jarrow Formulas Q-absorb CoQ10

Jarrow Formulas is one brand that is widely known for producing high-quality supplements, and its CoQ10 offering is no exception.  It provides a standardized 100 mg of CoQ10 per capsule—lab-verified to be within 3% of its stated amount—and comes in the form ubiquinol, which Jarrow Formulas claims is more absorbable than the normal form of CoQ10.

A white paper by William V. Judy and other medical professionals questions whether ubiquinol is a superior form than “regular” CoQ10, but if nothing else, it’s no worse (3).  Like regular CoQ10, ubiquinol is only fat-soluble, so Jarrow Formulas Q-absorb comes in gelatin capsules with oils, sunflower lecithin, and beeswax mixed in to successfully deliver the supplement.

Rosemary extract and tocopherols (vitamin E) round out the formula, acting as flavorings and preservatives.

One notable feature of the Jarrow Formulas CoQ10 supplement is that it does not contain any soy; if soy lecithin is a problem for you, it’s a good option.

8.  Qunol Ultra CoQ10

Qunol’s CoQ10 makes some aggressive claims about their product: they claim their formulation is better-absorbed than other CoQ10 supplements and is the top brand recommended by cardiologists.

As is usual, these claims are backed up only by in-house research that isn’t published in peer-reviewed independent scientific journals, but that does not mean there isn’t value to be found in Qunol’s CoQ10 formulation.

The gelatin capsules provide 100 mg of CoQ10 alongside 150 IUs of vitamin E.  The purity is fair, with each capsule containing a 5.7% excess of CoQ10 than what is reported on the label.  Ingredient-wise, it includes the usual mix of oils, triglycerides, and emulsifiers.

Like many other CoQ10 supplements, it contains soy, so if you have an allergy, be aware of that.  The claims of better absorption seem to be centered around the use of vitamin E, which also protects tissue from oxidizing damage (4), along with a more effective use of emulsifiers like hydroxylated lecithin, which helps the CoQ10 intermingle with oil and water, instead of separating out into different layers and not dissolving.

9.  Garden of Life Raw Coq10

Garden of Life specializes in supplement blends that are integrated into a capsule with fruit and vegetable juice and extracts.  The Garden of Life CoQ10 supplement includes 200 mg of CoQ10 per capsule dissolved in cold–pressed chia seed oil, but also includes a blend of over a dozen fruits and vegetables.

This formulation is firmly rooted in the belief that the juices and extracts of fruit and vegetables have significant enough health benefits to justify including them in the supplement.  The chia seed oil also has the benefit of providing omega-3 fatty acids.

Even though there are so many different ingredients, Garden of Life Raw CoQ10 is carefully formulated enough so that each capsule only differs from its label-stated amount of CoQ10 by less than two percent on independent lab analysis.

This makes it a good buy if you’re interested in the fruit and vegetable nutrients that the supplement can provide, but keep in mind that these increase the cost per capsule substantially compared to a more minimalist offering that provides just CoQ10.

You will have to keep these factors in mind when considering whether this is the right supplement for you.

10.  BRI Nutrition CoQ10

The Coenzyme Q10 supplement offered by BRI Nutrition takes what you might call a “maximalist” approach: there are several additional ingredients that are supposed to help CoQ10 do its job better than a supplement that only includes that one active ingredient.

It’s bold and aggressive in its packaging and marketing too—a stark contrast to some of the more simplistic and minimalistic offerings on this list.  Their formulation, which includes 100 mg of CoQ10 per capsule along with 100 IU of vitamin E and 2,334 IU of vitamin A, claims to offer more energy and more effective delivery of the CoQ10.

BRI Nutrition cites a study backing this up, but of course it was an in-house study not published in a prestigious medical journal by independent researchers.

It’s hard to recommend an untested formulation too strongly, especially when it hasn’t been tested by an independent scientific lab for purity.

You’re also paying more for the vitamin A and vitamin E that’s added in to the formula, so these factors combine to keep BRI Nutrition’s CoQ10 supplement at the bottom of the rankings, despite its popularity.

Part 2: What is CoQ10 and what can it do for you?

Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10 for short, is a dietary supplement and bio-active chemical that plays a pivotal role in your body’s energy systems.  Without CoQ10, you couldn’t produce the energy you need.  The parts of your body that use the most energy, like your heart and muscles, also have the highest concentration of CoQ10 for that very reason.

Unfortunately, as you get older, the concentration of CoQ10 in your body starts to wane.  The concentration of the compound inside your muscle cells drops in a predictable and measurable way. Some scientists and researchers hypothesize that this might have something to do with the gradual decline in energy, vigor, and physical fitness that occurs as a part of aging.

This prompts an immediate and obvious question: Can supplementing your diet with CoQ10 increase your energy levels or increase your fitness? If so, who should be taking it and how much should they take?

Much of the research into CoQ10 supplementation has focused on its role in keeping cardiac (heart) muscle healthy in older populations.  A 1999 study by Franklin L. Rosenfeldt and other researchers in the journal BioFactors showed, in a two-step study, the effects of CoQ10 on aging cardiac tissue (5).

The first study exposed both young and old rats to an artificial aerobic exercise protocol, then examined how well the rat hearts handled the stress of exercise.  The researchers found that, as expected, the older hearts couldn’t recover as well following aerobic exercise, but if they pre-treated the elderly rats with CoQ10, their hearts recovered much better after exercise.

The second experiment studied human cardiac tissue extracted during routine open-heart surgery.  Similar to the rat experiments, the human cardiac tissue from elderly patients showed a decreased ability to handle stress (this time imposed in the Petri dish instead of via exercise protocol) as compared to cardiac tissue from younger patients.

Again, however, pre-treatment with CoQ10 improved the function of the aged cardiac tissue—in this case, bringing it back on par with that of the younger patients.

Other research has connected increased CoQ10 with beneficial changes in degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease too: it appears to play a broader role in the aging process (x).

It’s also sometimes used to combat the negative effects of statins, drugs which lower blood lipid levels and help prevent heart attacks (6).

Given how broadly your body uses coenzyme Q10, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s involved in a wide range of disease progressions.  For now, the use of CoQ10 for treating heart disease, neurodegenerative disease, and other conditions is still experimental, but there have been some promising results.

In addition, there is also limited evidence that coenzyme Q10 could have performance-improving effects for healthy people when it comes to aerobic exercise.  A 2010 study by Hakkı Gökbel and other scientists in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the effect of CoQ10 supplementation on endurance exercise performance on an interval workout (7).

Fifteen men who did not regularly engage in exercise were given either a placebo or a 100 mg CoQ10 supplement to take daily.  Before and after eight weeks of supplementation, the men underwent a standardized interval workout to gauge their fitness.

Some, though not all, of the parameters measured in the interval workout increased in the study group that took CoQ10; peak power production and mean power production throughout the test tended to be higher in the CoQ10 group as compared to the placebo, but overall fatigue did not differ to a statistically significant extent from the placebo group.

Recommended dosage

The bulk of scientific research studies use doses of 150 to 200 milligrams of coenzyme Q10.  A few studies use a dose of 100 mg per day, and a few likewise use doses over 200 mg.  There does not seem to be any need for CoQ10 to be split up into smaller doses; most studies involve taking just one supplement tablet per day.

Research conducted by industry-sponsored scientists claims that adding a special proprietary black pepper extract to a CoQ10 supplement boosts absorption, and some of the supplements on the market include this “BioPerine” extract (10).  So far, though, clinical trials on using CoQ10 for the treatment of disease have not employed CoQ10 supplements that include BioPerene, as one of the primary desires in science is to eliminate any lurking or hidden variables that could confound your results.

It’s worth noting that there are plenty of clinical trials that have found beneficial effects of CoQ10 supplementation without adding black pepper extract; separate trials would be needed to determine if CoQ10 functioned better alongside black pepper extract.

Side effects of CoQ10

According to the Mayo clinic, CoQ10 is safe to take, even in fairly high dosages—up to 3,000 mg per day (X).  As reported by a 1999 research paper by scientists in Denmark in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, there are no known negative side effects of taking CoQ10 in doses of up to 200 mg per day for up to a year, nor in doses of 100 mg per day for up to six years (8).

This is a good sign, since almost all clinical trials are using doses on the low end of this range.  Though it may seem frustrating, it’s a long, gradual process to determine the optimal dosage.  It may be that substantially higher doses are needed to get the best effects, but so far, 100-300 mg per day looks pretty good.

The Mayo Clinic reports that some vague, mild, and transient side effects like fatigue, insomnia, or rashes might occur, but these do not appear to be serious (9).


Supplementing your diet with coenzyme Q10 is one way you might be able to boost your body’s energy production and stave off the loss of vigor that comes with age.  It may offer protective effects against heart disease and degenerative brain disorders.

On top of that, it might be able to boost your physical performance by supercharging the energy production of your muscles—results have been good in research on sedentary people, but it’s unknown whether someone who is physically fit will get the same benefits.

If you would like to use CoQ10 as an adjunctive treatment for a medical condition, make sure you talk with your doctor first.  CoQ10 may interact with certain medications, including warfarin, a blood thinner. In most cases, though, you should be able to try out CoQ10 to see if it helps you feel younger, healthier, and more energetic.

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