Episode 163

Idebenone, CoQ10, ubiquinol…  what’s the difference?  Dr. Dominic D’Agostino, Associate Professor of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida and Senior Research Scholar at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), is back to talk all things mitochondria and CoQ10.

Neural Dysfunction

The underlying cause of many neurological problems has been linked to mitochondrial metabolic dysregulation.  Neurological disorders like ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and motor neurone disease) are related to problems with metabolic dysfunction.

So what are we to do about it?  Supporting proper mitochondrial function is an important step.  Coenzyme Q10 and its synthetic analogs idebenone and ubiquinol are one way to give your mitochondria a boost.

Dr. D’Agostino has used idebenone in trials with ALS patients with good results:  he saw a 10% increase in survival rates in mice.  There’s still plenty of benefit for more healthy brains, however.

Idebenone and the Healthy Brain

Idebenone was originally developed by the Japanese pharmaceutical company, Takeda Pharmaceutical, for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive defects.  But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t benefit a healthy person, with certain qualifications.

It’s not going to benefit just any healthy person.  Idebenone works where there’s a deficiency in the mitochondrial electron transporter flow.  So it’s going to help healthy people who are dealing with environmental constraints like hypoxia or extreme oxygen toxicity.

More research needs to be done, but Dr. D’Agostino thinks the people most likely to benefit from idebenone supplementation are older.  In particular, anyone who is genetically predisposed to macular degeneration should take idebenone.

Taking Idebenone

Like ubiquinol, idebenone is an analog of CoQ10, but in a more bio-available form.  You can get idebenone from supplements or from food.  The food sources with the highest level of idebenone are sardines and beef liver.

Idebenone is lipophilic so make sure to always take it with a high-fat meal.  Ideally you should take it with a meal of between 500 and 1000 calories.  Any food with medium chain triglycerides is a good bet.

Not Too Much of a Good Thing

Luckily, the toxicity threshold of idebenone is very high — less than 1% of your intake every reaches circulation due to your liver breaking it down.  The dose limit is really your gastrointestinal tract’s ability to tolerate it.  One person taking 400mg four times a day had to stop due to heartburn.

Despite a long half-life of 18 hours, it won’t accumulate in your system so there’s not much risk of overdosing or building tolerance.

PS:  For more brain boosting goodness, make sure to join our weekly brain breakfast!

Written by Hannah Sabih
Hannah believes there's nothing 8 hours of sleep and some kale can't cure (yes, she's from California). She's an avid runner, reader, and traveler, who brings you the latest and greatest in neuroscience via our social media channels.
Affiliate Disclosure
This website contains affiliate links, which means Jesse may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or ads.  You will pay the same price for all products and services, and your purchase helps support Smart Drug Smarts' ongoing publications.  Thanks for your support!