Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a vitamin-like enzyme found in mitochondria, the power plants of cells. CoQ10's primary role is to help mitochondria harvest energy-producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from the foods we eat. More that 75 percent of the body's energy is produced this way, so when CoQ10 levels are low, ATP production drops and energy levels dip.
Physical and Mental Fatigue
CoQ10 is vital to the production of energy in the body. A deficiency can cause extreme physical fatigue. People with low levels of this enzyme may feel tired upon waking, or exhausted after just a few minutes of walking. Low CoQ10 levels can also cause mental fatigue. Symptoms include difficulty concentrating and memory lapses. People will also experience mood changes such a loss of enthusiasm, mild to moderate depression, irritability and a decreased ability to handle stress, according Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers.
Low ATP production is linked to increased pain. People deficient in CoQ10 often experience frequent headaches, migraines, jaw pain, or muscle and joint aches. There is also an increased risk of developing fibromyalgia, a chronic condition marked by widespread pain and extreme sensitivity to touch.
Weak Immune System
A weak immune system is also associated with low levels of CoQ10. People with this deficiency are more susceptible to cold and flu viruses, and they often suffer with chronic gum infections, says Dr. Teitelbaum. Without sufficient energy, the body cannot produce sufficient protective antibodies and defenders like the T-cells and macrophages cannot carry out their germ-fighting functions properly, he adds.
Increased Risk of Heart Disease and Obesity
Low levels of CoQ10 causes inflammation that leads to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, raising the risk heart disease, according to research published in the December 2009 issue of "Pharmacology and Therapeutics." A CoQ10 deficiency also reduces energy in cardiac cells, increasing the risk of heart failure.
Some studies have found that CoQ10 levels are 52 percent lower in obese people, leading some researchers to believe that low levels are a factor in weight gain and difficulty shedding excess pounds.
Low levels of CoQ10 are also linked with a number of neuromuscular and neurodegenerative disorders, including myalgic encephalomyelitis, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Coenzyme Q10
- Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D.; Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers; Addison, Texas
- Pharmacology and Therapeutics: Role of CoQ10 in cardiac disease, hypertension and Meniere-like syndrome