Q: Dear Superfoodly, because I’m on a statin, I’ve been taking a CoQ10 supplement as advised by my doctor. He just said to take a good brand and didn’t list any favorites. On TV I frequently see commercials for Qunol Ultra and Mega and how it is supposedly the best. Why is Qunol the better CoQ10?

A: First of all it’s worth saying a few words about this particular nutrient.

There are literally thousands of different supplements on the market, ranging from recognized vitamins and minerals to relatively unknown phytonutrients. Many of those have very little research to back their benefits and sometimes they are outright scams, with literally no clinical trials or peer reviewed research behind them.

natural rates of CoQ10 decline from agingOn the other hand, CoQ10 is completely different. In fact, after the essential vitamins and minerals, we would prioritize taking it above all other supplements.

CoQ10 is found in virtually every cell of your body. Your cells’ mitochondria need it to produce energy. Without it, they would die.

The reason it’s not classified as a vitamin is because our bodies make it (unlike vitamin C for example, which we are required to obtain from diet).

Production of it peaks at around age 20. The highest concentrations are in the vital organs so it comes as no surprise that much of the research suggesting CoQ10 benefits involves the heart and cardiovascular system.

This is why were are huge proponents of CoQ10.

To the best of our knowledge, Qunol Ultra CoQ10 (not their Mega or liquid versions) is the only one that has national TV commercials for it. But whichever of these 3 you’re talking about, is Qunol really better?

It’s definitely a good brand, but in a moment you will understand why we’ve been buying a different brand.

Understanding the difference between ubiquinone and ubiquinol

To understand their claims, you first need to understand what these two things are. As a dietary supplement, there are two versions of CoQ10 on the market:

  • Ubiquinone – When you buy CoQ10, this is typically the form you get. It’s not the form your body uses. First, you body needs to convert it to ubiquinol. As you would imagine, the efficiency (or lack thereof) of that process can reduce how much of the usable form ends up in your bloodstream.
  • Ubiquinol – This is the “fully reduced” form of CoQ10, which means it’s already been converted. While you can’t patent naturally occuring substances, you can patent the processes used to make them. Kaneka, a Japanese company, owns the patent for it and that won’t expire until 2021 (1).

Jarrow QH Absorb bottle photoYou may be surprised to learn that Kaneka is not a supplement seller, or at least not to consumers. Rather what they do is sell their ubiquinol CoQ10 to other companies, who then turn around and sell it to you, the consumer. There are dozens of different supplement companies who currently sell this preferred form.

What is the difference between Qunol and ubiquinol? If you buy their most expensive product, Qunol Mega CoQ10, there is no difference when it comes to the active ingredient, because that product actually uses ubiquinol.

So if there are other companies selling the same patented form, should you buy it from Qunol? In our opinion, maybe not. Given their brand recognition and the TV campaigns they have to pay for, we totally understand why they cost what they do. We just don’t want to be the ones that pay it.

If you look at where to buy Qunol in-store, you will find that even at discount retailers like Walmart and major pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid, the price per 100 mg capsule is not exactly cheap. Though the online prices tend to be much more competitive.

We recommend buying whichever ubiquinol is cheapest among trustworthy brands with positive customer reviews. If Mega Qunol is the cheapest at the retailer you use, then by all means stick with it. But if another well-reviewed brand is cheaper, go with that instead.

We actually buy Jarrow Formulas QH-Absorb on a monthly basis using Subscribe and Save on Amazon. Now Foods ubiquinol is another we have previously used. If the cost of Qunol Mega CoQ10 is competitive, then obviously it too is a great choice.

In short, whether you choose Qunol or someone else, there are plenty of good brands on the market using this same active ingredient. The key is to compare pricing for each since they’re constantly changing. The best ubiquinol is largely subjective since they all have to buy it from the same company, Kaneka. Even though they’re a Japanese company, it’s actually made in the USA, as the location of their ubiquinol manufacturing facility is in Pasadena, TX.

Difference between Qunol Ultra CoQ10 and Qunol Mega CoQ10?

So you now know that it’s ubiquinol which is used as the active ingredient in their most expensive product, Mega (the red label). But what’s used in their cheaper version (the white label) which typically costs about 20-25% less than the Mega?

That lower cost version does not use ubiquinol, it is uses ubiquinone.

Taking that into account, how good is Qunol Ultra CoQ10? Relative to the majority of other ubiquinone supplements on the market, it does have greater hydrosolubility (as per the USP Dissolution Test). The reason Qunol is better is because of how they process it for the capsule. It has lipids inside which synergistically help with bioavailability.

Their claim is that it has 3X better absorption than regular CoQ10, but make sure you read the fine print about it, which we will make really big for you:

*Regular CoQ10 refer to Unsolubilized Ubiquinone in oil suspensions in softgels and/or powder-filled capsules/tablets

man with handful of supplements and water glassPay attention to the word “regular” here.

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has scrutinized Qunol (Quten Research Institute) in the past for some health benefits claimed. For example, claims made that the product reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and dementia. Or that it reduces both systolic & diastolic blood pressure by 10% over an 8 week period. That was several years ago and since then, Quten has dropped those claims from their marketing (2).

As far as the claims about absorption, previously (way back in 2009) it was reportedly marketed as having “up to 6X better absorption than regular CoQ10.” However since that 600% was based off in vitro testing, they were recommended (not forced, just recommended) to use the claim of 300% increased absorption (or 3x better) instead (3):

“NAD determined that the in vitro testing alone is insufficient to establish that the liquid Qunol product will reach the claimed “up to 6X better absorption” in humans. While the in vitro study suggested that the liquid Qunol was absorbed 6X more than the reference standard and 2X more than the soft-gels, there was no evidence that this would occur in the human body. In fact, NAD noted, there was no evidence that it is even possible to achieve the absorption concentrations achieved in vitro, in humans. Consequently, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its “up to 6X better absorption” claims…”

Since that recommendation, the 3x higher has been used in marketing.

And indeed, Qunol has a large body of research to validate the 300% claim. In fact, as part of the aforementioned dispute, the NAD reviewed the data and was in agreement that it was substantiated:

“NAD next considered whether the advertiser could support its quantified “up to 300% more absorption.” Analyzing the results of the human studies, NAD noted that, (1) the Chopra study found an increased plasma CoQ10 concentration of 7.37-fold for Q-Gel as compared to an oil-based capsule, a powder filled capsule, and a tablet formulation, and (2) the study from New Zealand found a range of increased plasma CoQ10 concentrations as compared to other products on the market, ranging from 182%, 256%, 289%, 331%, 339% to 421%. The advertiser averaged these percentages and calculated an average increased plasma concentration of 303%. In addition, while NAD would not rely on the in vitro Bhagavan study on its own to support the claims, NAD did note that this study also found a 342% increased cellular absorption of CoQ10, as compared to the reference standard, pure CoQ10 powder. Based on these studies, NAD was satisfied that human studies provided support for the advertiser’s “up to 300% more absorbable” and “up to 3X more absorbable” claim [bold emphasis added by us] for its Qunol Q-Gel products, as compared to the non-solubilized CoQ10 products on the market. NAD recommended, however, that the advertiser make it clearer what it is comparing its product to, i.e., “what is Qunol 300% more absorbable than?” NAD found that the advertising, as written does not make it clear what the object of comparison is.”

You have to remember that’s compared versus regular. That is different than Qunol Ultra CoQ10 vs. ubiquinol, which is not being compared.

The takeaway?

If you buy regular ubiquinone, then it is true that Qunol Ultra and Qunol Liquid CoQ10 does have up to 3x better absorption than many other regular forms on the market. Among those, it’s an excellent choice which does seem to have good reviews from customers. This pattern was seen across several leading online retailers we researched.

However if you can afford it, the best CoQ10 to buy in the opinion of many researchers is ubiquinol, since that is in the same reduced form your body naturally uses and studies have suggested it has excellent bioavailability. The good news is you can get it with the Qunol Mega CoQ10 product line, as well as other supplement companies, providing you with plenty of options to choose from.

Whether or not you take ubiquinol versus ubiquinone, regardless of brand, it’s ideal to take it right before a meal/snack that contains at least some fat content, since CoQ10 is a fat soluble substance. That doesn’t mean a burger or fries! A serving of healthy almonds as a snack or some avocado in your salad should suffice (or if you use salad dressing, it probably already is loaded with more than enough fat).

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.