Why do the mitochondria need coenzyme Q10?
Why do the mitochondria need coenzyme Q10?

Why do the mitochondria need coenzyme Q10?

Coenzyme Q10 plays a central role in the mitochondria – the 'powerhouses of the cell'

It is in the mitochondria that coenzyme Q10 plays an integral role in the respiratory chain. And it is from respiratory chain that cells derive energy in the form of ATP, the universal unit of energy used by our bodies. ATP provides our organs and muscles with the energy they need to perform their functions. There is no substance in our bodies that could replace coenzyme Q10. It is therefore a vital compound. Without it, we would not achieve the optimal conversion and use of the energy contained in our food.

But providing energy is not coenzyme Q10's only role

  • Coenzyme Q10 is essential for efficient energy production
  • Coenzyme Q10 contributes to the integrity and stabilisation of cell membranes
  • Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful, fat-soluble antioxidant
  • Coenzyme Q10 protects the cells, e.g. from free radicals
  • Coenzyme Q10 regenerates Vitamin E
  • Coenzyme Q10 strengthens the immune system

Free radicals are an unavoidable by-product of many of the body's metabolic processes. And if factors such as smoking, environmental pollution, stress or chronic inflammatory disease are present, the number of free radicals will increase. The problem is that free radicals cause oxidative stress. For example, they damage our cell membranes and therefore, ultimately, our organs. Oxidative stress caused by free radicals burdens each individual cell and, therefore, the entire body. It is also a co-factor in many diseases such as Alzheimer's, cancer, Parkinson's and coronary heart disease.

As a highly effective antioxidant, coenzyme Q10 guards against the damaging effects of free radicals.
What makes it particularly valuable is that it is available in exactly the place where many free radicals are produced: the mitochondria. So the coenzyme helps to minimise the consequences of heightened oxidative load in this area.

As a fat-soluble substance, coenzyme Q10 can also penetrate the cell membranes, so it can protect these membranes from oxidation and help to stabilise them. The cell membrane is constructed like an impenetrable, tightly woven barrier that prevents damaging alien molecules from getting into the cell. Free radicals, not to mention the many fat-soluble E-numbers contained in our food, can damage this protective function. Preventing oxidation is therefore vital, as intact cell membranes are indispensible for well-functioning intra-cellular metabolic processes.

Some organs contain a large amount of coenzyme Q10 due to their high-energy usage. These include:

  • Heart
  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Pancreas
  • Lungs
  • Brain
  • Muscles

A lack of coenzyme Q10 affects the amount of energy in the cells

This lack can particularly affect those organs that need large amounts of coenzyme Q10 because they use so much energy. A good supply of coenzymes is vital for the supply of energy in its physiological form (ATP) to the muscle cells and organs and for the efficient functioning of the heart and brain.

Coenzyme Q10 is used not just in nutritional supplements but in cosmetics as well. As an ingredient in many creams, it is designed to compensate for the age-related loss of coenzyme Q10 in the skin cells and to reduce damage-causing free radicals in the skin. It can therefore help protect the skin against the excessive effects of ageing.