The popular dietary supplement ubiquinone, also known as Coenzyme Q10, is widely believed to function as an antioxidant, protecting cells against damage from free radicals. But a new study by scientists at McGill University finds that ubiquinone is not a crucial antioxidant and that consuming it is unlikely to provide any benefit.
The findings, by a team led by Professor Siegfried Hekimi in McGill's Department of Biology, are published today (March 6) in Nature Communications.
Ubiquinone is a lipid-like substance found naturally in all cells of the body. Cells need it to produce energy from nutrients and oxygen – a function performed by tiny structures, known as mitochondria, within cells. Because it was also thought to function as an antioxidant, ubiquinone has been recommended for a variety of ills and as an anti-aging supplement; global sales of the substance are estimated to amount to hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
"Our findings show that one of the major anti-aging antioxidant supplements used by people can't possibly act as previously believed," Hekimi says. "Dietary supplements cost a lot of money to patients throughout the world – money that would be better spent on healthy food. What's more, the hope for a quick fix makes people less motivated to undertake appropriate lifestyle changes."