If you’re interested in supplementing with CoQ10, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices in front of you. You are not alone! Choosing a supplement can seem amazingly complex and thrust you far out of your comfort zone because while the supplement industry is regulated to some degree by the FDA, responsibilities like quality control and good sourcing practices fall largely into the hands of the supplement manufacturer. If you’re working with an integrative or functional medicine practitioner who has training with supplements and herbs, you might have them recommend a specific brand. But even if you go this route, it’s important to know that there are some general guidelines to follow when choosing a supplement:
1. Dosage and form.
Is your supplement in the most bioavailable form for your condition, and is the dosage correct? First, look at the numbers on the label and see if they match the dose agreed upon by you and your health care professional (for CoQ10, typical doses for adults range between 30 and 200 milligrams for specific conditions). CoQ10 will most likely come in the form of coenzyme Q10, but it might also say Ubiquinol or Ubiquinone. Those aren’t necessarily bad, but it’s important to pay attention and work with a professional to find the right form for you.
2. Storage and expiration date.
Make sure you’re storing your supplement correctly: Does it need to be refrigerated or kept out of the sun? These details will change depending on how the supplement was manufactured, so just make sure you read the label and follow the directions so you know you’re getting the most bang for your buck. In general, supplements with expiration dates are a good sign; this means the company is taking the time to understand how the nutrient profile of the supplement degrades over time and is guaranteeing that it will maintain its potency until the expiration date.
3. Extra ingredients.
On pretty much every supplement bottle you’ll find a section where is says “Extra ingredients.” It’s really important to read the ingredients on this list because some unsightly characters can find their way into your supplements if you don’t know what to look for. A great supplement won’t contain chemicals, artificial colors, or sweeteners. (Yes, some supplements will have rice flour or sugar or dyes.) Many supplements have organic, gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, or other declarations right on the bottle. If it doesn’t explicitly say a supplement is free of a certain ingredient, play it safe and assume it’s in there.
4. Third-party certifications.
A third-party certification is when a company has an independent organization monitor the quality control of their product. Generally, if a company does this, they will have an NSF sticker right on the label. These certifications are more expensive, so smaller supplement companies are less likely to have them, which is understandable. Just make sure they are doing what they can to be transparent about the way they monitor quality. Another way to evaluate a specific supplement is to check out the Consumer Lab website. They test different supplements for quality and potency and give them a pass-or-fail score.
5. Company best practices.
Some other good signs when it comes to supplements include total transparency when it comes to how they label, manufacture, and test their products. If you call them on the phone they should be able to answer questions like where they source ingredients from (if it’s from a farm, ask where it’s located and whether or not it’s organic) and what materials they use to make the capsules. In addition, a supplement company that invests their time and money in research—or better yet, has teamed up with a university or hospital—it trying to increase the scientific data supporting their products (also a good sign). Lastly, a supplement company should encourage you to work with a professional because while supplements normally use natural ingredients, they can still interact with medications you’re taking or cause allergic reactions.
Still, have questions? Here’s a more in-depth look at what you should know before you buy a supplement or check out these resources:
National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements
Consumer Lab website
Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute supplement reviews
FDA Dietary Supplement and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA)
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
How to take CoQ10.
CoQ10 is fat-soluble, so normally you will take it as a capsule with a meal. Experts also recommend that you take it at night to increase its effect. Various sources say that gels are better for absorption, but CoQ10 is also available as a hard-shell capsule, in an oral spray, as a tablet, and it’s even sometimes added to various cosmetics because of its high antioxidant content.
And so, if you’ve read up on CoQ10, talked with your doctor of medical provider about dosing and possible interactions with any medications your taking, and found a supplement that you trust—you’ve got the green light to try it out. Just don’t forget to keep a log of any symptoms or changes you feel. Happy supplementing!