What do we know about Q10 absorption mechanism and watersoluble Q10? What is really happening in our intestines? Once we understand the mechanism, it becomes clear that solubilizing the lipophilic Q10 is essential.

Only after absorption, Q10 can contribute to

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Q10 is naturally produced by the body BUT its amount declines as you age 😞

Q10 decreases with age
Organ content of total CoQ10 decreases with age (Littarru G., Lambrechts P. 2011)

Q10 can be taken as a nutritional supplement BUT it is not well absorbed 😞

The absorption mechanism of lipophilic nutrients

The processes required for uptake of orally ingested lipophilic compounds are as follows:

  1. partitioning in mixed micelles 
  2. uptake into intestinal absorptive cells
  3. incorporation into chylomicrons and secretion into lymph for delivery to target tissues
absorption mechanism of lipophilic nutrients and Q10
Absorption mechanism of lipophilic nutrients and Q10 (picture from Martelli A; et al 2020)

Intestinal absorption of Q10 occurs firstly through the emulsification and formation of “mixed micelles” with fatty meal constituents, also facilitated by bile and pancreatic secretions in the small intestine. The absorption efficiency is dose-dependent and occurs through a diffusion process. How exactly lipophilic molecules cross the membrane of the enterocytes is still a matter of research.

The mechanism of lipophilic nutrient absorption and Q10

Q10 is a fat-soluble nutrient. Before uptake into the enterocytes, lipid nutrients must pass a diffusion barrier, the unstirred water layer. This is the water layer covering the mucosa, where the intestinal flow rate is essentially zero. The unstirred water layer is rate-limiting for intestinal uptake of lipids from micellar solutions.

Our body absorbs short-chain fatty acids and medium-chain fatty acids easily without the micellation step. However, the more lipophilic the nutrient, the more critical to help bile acids in this micellation step.

The mechanism of lipophilic nutrient absorption and Q10
Lipophilic nutraceuticals crossing the UWL (Unstirred Water Layer) barrier in our small intestines

Q10 has the longest chain length of common lipophilic nutrients. It is extremely poorly watersoluble and as a result, it is poorly absorbed. Our intestines absorb 3-10% of regular Q10. Here Q10 needs some support. This can be done by increasing its water solubility. Bile acids cooperate in synergy with solubilized Q10 for improved absorption.  

Published studies support the simple concept that optimal Q10 absorption needs a dilution effect. Ideally, Q10 should be spread out over the epithelium as much as possible. Divided dosages of Q10 cause a larger increase in serum levels of Q10 than a single dose. Q10 enriched olive oil has 2-3 times higher absorption vs oil-based soft gel.

Studies related to Q10 absorption and watersoluble Q10

There are numerous single dose (fasting) studies that show that Q10 in watersoluble form has a higher AUC (Area Under the Curve) than the pure substance dissolved in a softgel oil matrix. 

Super micellized Q10 passes the Unstirred Water Layer rapidly, the basis for a high absorption
Super micellized Q10 passes the Unstirred Water Layer rapidly. This is the basis for a high absorption.

A recent study from Professor Pravst in Slovenia showed that the bioavailability of watersoluble Q10 is 2.4-fold vs crystalline Q10; the bioavailability of ubiquinol soft capsule did not show a significant increase. This study was a single-center, randomized, three-period, crossover intervention design. The researchers used a single dose of 100mg of Q10 in a healthy geriatric population. After that, they compared watersoluble Q10 and ubiquinol capsules to generic Q10 capsules. Interestingly, Q10 appeared in the blood mostly as ubiquinol, even if consumed as Q10 (Pravst 2020).

A Japanese randomized controlled study compared the absorption of a water-dispersed ubiquinol-Q10 powder to a traditional ubiquinol softgel after single oral administration. The researchers, including a senior Kaneka scientist, found that the solubilized version had a higher Q10 absorption close to factor 300% vs softgel capsule. The solubilized ubiquinol-Q10 can be administered effectively under fasting conditions. (Uchida 2014)

Solubilized Ubiquinol-Q10 has about 3 times higher absorption vs classic ubiquinol capsules
Solubilized ubiquinol-Q10 has about 3 times higher absorption vs classic ubiquinol capsules (Japan Preventive Medicine)

Professor Miles from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center obtained the highest plasma coenzyme Q10 concentration ever reported in the literature so far. The levels ware 10.7 µmol Q10/L. The research team achieved this using a liquid watersoluble Q10-ubiquinol formulation (Miles 2006).

Another recent investigation in Japan concluded that more than 40% of dietary supplements may not be as effective as said. Japan’s National Consumer Affairs Center (NCAC) concluded this after testing 100 products. 40% were unable to dissolve in water within the specified time limits. Subsequently, the results from the solubility test suggested that people may not be absorbing the right amount of nutrients as advertised on the supplement products.

Mr. Raj Chopra, CEO of Tishcon Corporation, is a leading authority on Q10 absorption. He taught Industrial Pharmacy at Columbia University in New York. Mr. Chopra is one of the most cited authors related to coenzyme Q10 absorption. His company is the market leader in 100% hydrosoluble, bioavailability-enhanced, and clinically tested Q10 & ubiquinol products.

Solubilized Q10 is superior bioavailable to conventional available preparations such as Q10 in oil softgel
Mean plasma coenzyme Q10 values following supplementation (Chopra 1998)

Furthermore, the absorption of Q10 supplements can be enhanced by consuming them with food (Takahashi 2020).

Summing up the Q10 absorption mechanism and watersoluble Q10

The key to effective Q10 supplementation is the improvement of its bioavailability. Understanding the Q10 absorption mechanism clearly shows the importance of watersoluble Q10. Its superior absorption versus the industry-standard softgel oil-based and versus generic crystalline Q10 powder capsules cannot be denied.

Watersoluble Q10 is quickly and reliably absorbed by the body regardless of the dosage form or intake time.

Low priced Q10 supplements may not provide the best absorption. Certainly, consumers are willing to pay more for bioavailability enhancements.

Third generation Q10 products for improved absorption have now become available in Japan. These all-plant origin Q10 formulations promise a faster self-dissolution without stirring and superior solubilization stability, which is the basis for a guaranteed natural super absorption.