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Food First: Coenzyme Q10


February is heart month, so we are taking a look at Coenzyme Q10, which may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Coenzyme Q10 isn’t a vitamin or mineral, but an antioxidant and vitamin-like molecule that works in conjunction with enzymes in the body to provide energy and support immunity. In its role as an antioxidant, Coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10, protects your cells from the harmful free radicals that can cause permanent damage to the DNA and lipid layers of the cell. CoQ10 is also important for cell mitochondria, which are the powerhouse energy producers of the body [i, ii].

Daily Recommendations

Currently there are no set recommendations for daily intake of Coenzyme Q10 [ii]

Since it’s discovery in the late 50’s, CoQ10 has been proposed as a possible treatment and preventative factor against cancer development. However, since that time few studies have been able to fully substantiate these claims. As discussed in our vitamin C article from September, supplementation of antioxidants during any cancer treatment is not recommended due to the fact that antioxidants have the potential to negate the cancer fighting properties of chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments. Obtaining antioxidants through food sources has not been shown to interfere in the same manner. CoQ10 may be important during cancer treatment as it is present in higher amounts within the tissues of the heart, and during chemotherapy treatments it has been shown to be protective of these cardiac tissues [i].

Coenzyme Q10 Deficiency

Deficiency of CoQ10 is another deficiency that is incredibly rare in the developed world. However, there are some disease states, including cancer, which may predispose individuals to developing a CoQ10 deficiency. Certain types of cancers have shown decreased CoQ10 levels while others have shown elevated levels, which is why it may be important to be aware of any signs of deficiency to discuss with your healthcare provider. Because of the high levels of CoQ10 in the cells of heart muscle, deficiency can often present as cardiovascular problems such as abnormal heart rate, heart failure and/or high blood pressure. Low energy and fatigue can also be a sign of low CoQ10 in the body [iii].

** If instructed by a medical professional to take a vitamin or mineral supplement, it is important that these instructions are followed. In some cases, food sources of vitamins and minerals will not be sufficient for addressing nutritional inadequacies. **

Sources of Coenzyme Q10

Below is a list of the most common food sources of CoQ10:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Strawberries
  • Fish
  • Pistachios
  • Sesame seeds
  • Broccoli
Coenzyme Q10-rich Recipe: Strawberry Pistachio Crumble Pie
  1. 3 cups chopped strawberries
  2. 1/3 cup whole rolled oats
  3. 1/3 cup chopped pistachios
  4. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  5. ¼ cup brown sugar
  6. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  7. 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  8. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  9. 3 tablespoons butter
  10. 1 tablespoon water
  11. Whipped cream or ice cream for serving (optional)
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  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a pie pan.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the oats, pistachios, flour, brown sugar, sesame seeds, cinnamon, and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse again. Add the water and pulse again. This mixture should be fairly crumbly but should stick together when pressed.
  3. Place the chopped strawberries in the bottom of the pie pan and top with the crumble mixture.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes or until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Adapted from Sugar and Cloth
Adapted from Sugar and Cloth
Savor Health https://savorhealth.com/


[i] Coenzyme Q10 (PDQ)-Health Professional Version 2016; https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/coenzyme-q10-pdq#section/_1.

[ii] Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): In Depth 2017; https://nccih.nih.gov/health/supplements/coq10.

[iii] Nordstrom O. Coenzyme Q10 Deficiency Symptoms 2017; https://www.livestrong.com/article/458556-can-children-take-coq10/.

Rebecca MacLean

Rebecca MacLean is a dietetic intern and graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University. Rebecca received her undergraduate degree in Human Nutrition and Food Science with a minor in Sustainable Food Systems from the University of Maine. In her spare time, Rebecca enjoys home cooking and spending as much time as possible in the outdoors. She currently resides in New York City.

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