CoQ10 Protects Skin Mitochondria from AgingPrint
By Kathy Wise
As we age, we tend to tire more quickly. This loss of energy is reflected not only in how we feel but how we look. When cells are unable to maintain and repair themselves properly, it leads to skin wrinkles, sagging, and other outward signs of age.1,2 A new study3 shows that we can fight skin aging by using a familiar and vital nutrient:
The Role of Mitochondria
According to the mitochondrial theory of aging, energy loss is a causative factor in degenerative aging.4 Mitochondria are the tiny power plants of our cells. They burn food molecules and generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which delivers energy to the cells. Over time, the mitochondria are damaged.3-6 There are many causes, including oxidative stress, toxins, and infections. And some of the oxidative stress comes directly from the mitochondria’s own energy-generating activity.7
Damaged mitochondria are less efficient and produce less ATP from food. That leaves us with an energy deficit.In our skin, insufficient ATP means inadequate cell maintenance and repair. One result is visibly wrinkled and sagging skin.1,2 Studies showed long ago how CoQ10 can heal mitochondria and boost mitochondrial function.8-10 Scientists at a top university in Germany set out to examine how this would impact aging skin.
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Testing Aging Skin for CoQ10 Benefits
Researchers took skin biopsy samples from donors of varying ages to measure the effects of mitochondrial function on skin aging.3 They kept the skin samples alive in cell culture medium and tested each one for mitochondrial function, including oxygen consumption rate (more consumption means more mitochondrial activity) and ATP production (more ATP means more active mitochondria).
Next, they supplemented the culture medium of the biopsies with either CoQ10 or a control solution and measured the impact on mitochondrial function. Oxygen consumption and ATP production were again measured.
CoQ10 Restores Energy
Two major findings emerged. First, researchers demonstrated the mitochondrial theory of aging—and showed that it applies to human skin—by demonstrating that oxygen consumption and ATP production declined with age.3 Samples from older people had lower rates of mitochondrial activity and, as a result, lower rates of energy production. In fact, the scientists found a reliable and severe decline in mitochondrial activity of about 10% per decade.3
Second, the study revealed a role for CoQ10 in the prevention of age-associated mitochondrial dysfunction.The researchers found that when CoQ10 was added to the skin biopsies, there was a marked increase in mitochondrial activity. This was measured by examining the oxygen consumption rate, since mitochondria use oxygen to generate ATP.
Skin biopsies supplemented with CoQ10 ramped up their oxygen consumption rate by close to 30% compared with the unsupplemented ones.3 The study indicates that supplementation with CoQ10 can significantly restore mitochondrial energy production. This has important implications for reducing skin aging. It shows that by restoring mitochondrial energy production, skin tissue repair and maintenance are improved. This gives CoQ10-nourished cells a boost in fighting the ravages of aging.
This finding is important for those concerned about skin aging. It has implications for other organs and systems, all of which rely on mitochondria to function properly.
Human Study Shows CoQ10 Helps Combat Visible Skin Aging
Researchers at the Institute of Cosmetics in Ljubljana, Slovenia, set out to examine the potential benefits of CoQ10 on visible signs of skin aging as measured by skin thickness, hydration, elasticity, and wrinkles. The study was done during the cold winter months when skin problems tend to be most evident.11 Thirty-three women aged 45-60 were enrolled and told to continue their routine skin-care and dietary habits.
This group was subdivided randomly to receive one of the following:
- 50 mg each day CoQ10 supplement, or
- 150 mg each day CoQ10 supplement.
The study lasted 12 weeks, and skin quality measurements were conducted at baseline, and at six and 12 weeks of supplementation.
The study showed that:11
- Wrinkles (measured in the area around the eyes) did not change in the placebo group, while both CoQ10-supplemented groups had significant reductions in wrinkles.
- Skin elasticity decreased by nearly25% over 12 weeks in placebo subjects, but remained unchanged in both CoQ10 groups, resulting in significant differences between treated and placebo subjects.
- Smoothness: Expert evaluation (blinded to study group) revealed significant improvement in CoQ10-treated groups’ skin smoothness by 70%-82%, with no significant changes in the skin of placebo recipients.
This human study is among the first to demonstrate the clinical benefits of oral CoQ10 supplements for reducing skin aging.
How It Works and Why It Matters
Cells require efficient, clean-running mitochondria to function properly—and when mitochondria suffer, so do the tissues in which they reside. At the core of the energy-converting process is the electron transport chain, a sort of power line that transfers electrons from food-derived molecules (mainly carbohydrates and fat) to ATP molecules. Cells then use ATP to power themselves.
As this process occurs, toxic byproducts are produced, including free radicals.6,12-14The resulting oxidative damage causes the mitochondria to gradually deteriorate. In skin tissue, that leads to visible defects in skin quality.15-17 CoQ10 plays an essential role in the electron transport chain, facilitating the efficient transfer of electrons. It also acts as a free radical scavenger, reducing oxidative damage.
But CoQ10 levels drop with advancing age. This leaves cells relatively unprotected, and causes mitochondria to burn their fuel inefficiently, wasting energy and producing more toxic by products.6,12-14 In the skin biopsy study, adding CoQ10 acted as a “fuel additive” that enhanced electron transport to overcome the consequences of ailing mitochondria.3
What all this means is:
- CoQ10 supplementation may be an important step in maintaining healthy skin into advanced age, and
- Other tissues in the body are likely to receive similar benefits from CoQ10.
One aspect of aging involves accumulated cellular damage and dysfunction. One of the biggest contributors is the increase of dysfunctional mitochondria in our cells. A study shows that skin cells supplemented with CoQ10 have healthier mitochondria. Adding to this is evidence from a clinical trial showing oral CoQ10 supplementation improved the appearance and youthfulness of aging skin.
These findings suggest that CoQ10 supports youthful function in tissues throughout the body.