CoQ10 is well known for its heart and vascular health benefits. By helping the cellular powerhouses known as mitochondria burn fuel more effectively, CoQ10 is able to protect not only the heart but every cell in your body. That’s why scientists are growing increasingly fascinated with the role of CoQ10 in tissues beyond the cardiovascular system. There is evidence for CoQ10’s protective effects in the brain and nervous system, in asthma and chronic lung disease, in diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, on ocular health, and even on the aging immune system. Most excitingly, there’s early support for the idea that CoQ10 supplementation can extend the life span of both primitive animals and mammals, laying the groundwork for a similar pro-longevity effect in humans.
According to the mitochondrial theory of aging, oxidant damage to the mitochondria is at the root of aging itself. Simply put, the more oxidative damage to mitochondria, the shorter the lifespan of the individual. Therefore, if we can make mitochondria burn energy more cleanly and efficiently, we can decelerate the aging process. That would mean not only longer life, but a healthier one. CoQ10 is an essential component of the mitochondrial energy transfer system. When CoQ10 levels fall, mitochondrial dysfunction skyrockets, and aging is accelerated.
However, when CoQ10 is added back to ailing or aging mitochondria, their function rebounds. Studies show that when supplemented with CoQ10, older worms in the species C. elegans experience a slowing down of the aging process and an extended life span. Even studies that don’t show life span extension demonstrate a return to youthful behaviors and functions in response to CoQ10 supplementation. These benefits aren’t restricted to primitive invertebrates, however. Research demonstrates that mice supplemented with CoQ10 live longer. In one case, supplemented animals experienced an 11.7% increase in mean life span, and a 24% increase in maximum life span. That increase translates into the equivalent of humans gaining over 9 years, based on today’s life expectancy of 78.5 years.
The benefits of CoQ10 supplementation in mice aren’t restricted solely to extending the quantity of life, however. Lifelong dietary supplementation with CoQ10 decreased objective measures of aging even in middle-aged animals. CoQ10 appears to achieve these exceptional effects through a multi-targeted set of mechanisms. It is now evident that CoQ10 directly influences the expression of multiple genes involved in aging, especially those regulating inflammation. This so-called “epigenetic” effect is at the very forefront of scientific attempts to understand how environmental factors such as nutrition influence our genetic load. Taken all together, CoQ10’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and epigenetic mechanisms combine to offer remarkable protection for a host of body systems, especially those hit hardest by mitochondrial aging.