What a difference 15 years make. They’re barely a crease on the face of time, but within their span we’ve seen movies go from DVD to the Cloud, telephones from utilities to virtual appendages, and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) from “niche” nutrient to veritable household name.
And Scott Steinford, executive director of the CoQ10 Association (Salt Lake City), has been around to witness it all. By the Association’s reckoning, CoQ10 is currently the fourth most consumed specialty supplement in North America, and the expectations, he says, are “for continued growth as education and awareness of its benefits are demonstrated.”
Indeed, CoQ10’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) has held above 20% for more than the past decade and a half. And where the number of brands identified with the compound stood at 18 in 2001, the tally reached a full 123 by 2016. As for the size of the North American market, “skyrocketed” may be too dramatic a term, but there’s no denying that its ascent from an estimated 3.7 million consumers in 2001 to 16.5 million in 2016 is impressive.
As it happens, one factor that’s driven those consumers to CoQ10 is another inescapable force of change these past 15 years: the Internet. As Steinford says, “The Internet is affording consumers a lot of opportunity for education.” Recalling his own “discovery” of CoQ10 back in the era of hard-copy journals, he notes that the opportunities for diving into research then were limited to all but those with access to major libraries. But now, he says, the Internet unlocks “in a matter of moments literally thousands of studies that support CoQ10. And that’s driving demand because consumers are generating their own interest and knowledge.”
Knowledge Is Power
What knowledge are they generating? For starters, they’re becoming reacquainted with the electron transport chain they first encountered in high school biology, and with CoQ10’s role as a crucial electron carrier in it. In that capacity, CoQ10 helps cells generate ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which, as the body’s fundamental energy-transfer currency, is the stuff of life itself.
No wonder, then, that this ubiquitous compound—not coincidentally known as ubiquinone—resides in nearly every cell of the body, primarily in the mitochondria where electron transport occurs. But CoQ10 does more than carry electrons. As a natural antioxidant, it shields lipids and proteins from oxidation, and as one of the most investigated ingredients in the health space—with 3,000-plus studies referenced on PubMed, Steinford says—CoQ10 is emerging as a compound with the potential to improve everything from heart health and cognitive function to oral health, sports performance, and more.
Research has shown that long-term high doses may slow symptom progressions in early-stage Parkinson’s patients. In patients with heart failure, CoQ10 decreases hospitalizations, reduces labored breathing and edema, and increases overall quality of life, per other studies. Steinford even notes that the Q-SYMBIO Trial found that long-term CoQ10 treatment in patients with chronic heart failure safely attenuated symptoms and reduced major adverse cardiovascular events. “As more clinical studies are completed,” he says, “the ingredient will continue to be one of the most important options in the supplement market.”
The Cardiologist Connection
One sure sign of that importance is the buy-in CoQ10 gets from heart doctors. As Steinford notes, “Cardiologists are getting onboard with CoQ10 at a fairly significant rate. With more studies supporting its strength, these thought leaders are recommending it.”
A 2015 online study fielded by Research Now and commissioned by the CoQ10 Association found that 45% of cardiologists, without prompting, say they recommend CoQ10 to their patients, and that almost one in four—especially younger doctors—are eager to learn more about its efficacy and therapeutic use, Steinford says.
To no small extent, CoQ10’s future lies in these professionals’ hands—and in those of the scientific community tasked with researching it. Yet knowledge about its benefits “is still at its infancy,” Steinford maintains.
Perhaps not for long. “I recognized when I first encountered CoQ10,” he says, “that the more educated you become about it, the more it impresses you.”