A comprehensive assessment of a person’s health provides us with the information we need to make therapy suggestions. The influence of genetics, on the other hand, is one of the less visible aspects of the overall picture. SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) have been shown to alter a person’s ability to use dietary supplements. Is it possible that this factor is at play when taking coenzyme Q10?

The answer is yes, as it turns out. NQ01 is an SNP that affects the ability of the body to convert coenzyme Q10 to Ubiquinol. Let’s look at what happens there in more detail.

If you read our previous post, “Ubiquinol and Bioavailability: A 70% Better Solution,” you’ll recall that Ubiquinol is the preferred form of coenzyme Q10 in the blood, as well as the form in which it is best transported to the cell, where it plays a critical role in the production of energy from food. When you eat coenzyme Q10, your body immediately converts it to Ubiquinol.1

By adding two electrons and two hydrogens to coenzyme Q10, it becomes Ubiquinol. Coenzyme Q10 reductase, a particular enzyme that enables the two-electron reduction, is required for this transition to occur (both for coenzyme Q10 and other substrates). In young, healthy people, about 95 percent of the coenzyme Q10 in circulation is in its reduced form (ubiquinol). 2,3 If coenzyme Q10 reductase is made incorrectly, the transition may take longer to complete. As a result of the lower antioxidant activity, people with the NQO1 SNP are more vulnerable to oxidative stress and have a higher tendency to disease.

We can now analyse the blueprints for many genes thanks to the sequencing of the human genome. In a specific gene, we can see the distinct, typical variances between persons. SNPs can also be found in genes that code for enzymes, such as our target enzyme, coenzyme Q10 reductase. These SNPs can cause slight, or occasionally large, alterations in the enzyme’s action. NQ01 is the name of the gene that codes for coenzyme Q10 reductase. A SNP in the NQ01 gene causes a version of coenzyme Q10 reductase to be less efficient than other versions, because the SNP causes this version to be broken down much faster in the body than other versions. 4

As a result, people with this SNP have less coenzyme Q10 reductase around, which compromises the conversion of coenzyme Q10 to Ubiquinol. As a result, these people’s bodies will have a difficult time carrying coenzyme Q10 to the cells that require it, and taking coenzyme Q10 as a supplement will provide little benefit.

The frequency of the NQ01 polymorphism in the population varies by ethnicity: it is found in the homozygous form (both genes) at a frequency of 4% in Caucasians, 5% in African–Americans, 16% in Mexican Hispanics, and 22% in Chinese populations in the homozygous condition (both genes).5

Taking Ubiquinol provides the body with the desired and active form right away, avoiding the SNP issue entirely by obviating the necessity for the coenzyme Q10 reductase enzyme. Because Ubiquinol is a lipid-soluble antioxidant, this not only improves efficacy in the mitochondria, but also boosts oxidative potential.

Testing for an SNP in the NQ01 gene is not yet standard practise, but it will hopefully become so in the future. It’s a good idea to start with Ubiquinol, especially if coenzyme Q10 hasn’t worked in the past.