Pacific Wellness Toronto News

Testing Antioxidants: A Quick Update about Alpha Lipoic Acid and Coenzyme Q10

Tim H. Tanaka, Ph.D.

Over the past 10 years, I have been testing a number of vitamins and herbal products using our research quality ORP instrument, to evaluate the quality and potential “power” of specific nutrients produced by different manufactures. ORP stands for Oxidation Reduction Potential. It is used to evaluate the oxidation or reduction power of a substance. ORP measurements indicate the value of antioxidant properties in most circumstances.

Because oxidation processes in our body are linked to many diseases, antioxidant supplements have been frequently recommended by many health care practitioners. Below, I will briefly discuss two well known antioxidants, alpha-lipoic acid and coenzyme Q10 with their ORP results.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid

Alpha-lipoic acid is a nutritional coenzyme that participates in the energy metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, with a particular role in blood glucose disposal. It is also an antioxidant, a substance that neutralizes free radicals.

Alpha-lipoic acid is frequently used for conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, commonly seen in diabetic patients. It is important to remember that alpha lipoic acid has two forms: S-Lipoic and R-Lipoic acids. Based on our test, the ORP of one lipoic acid product (which contains both S and R forms) was +144mv., while another product (which contains only R form) was -184mv. For ORP, the lower the number, the higher the antioxidant power, potentially. The high positive (+) value generally indicates a substance as highly pro-oxidative, whereas a high negative (-) value indicates a substance with highly anti-oxidative effects. Testing was conducted on two different occasions and the results were consistent: R form of lipoic acid produced substantially lower ORP values.

Alpha lipoic acid products that are commonly sold in many pharmacies and health food stores contain a mixture of both the R and S lipoic acids. While there may be some other benefits to taking mixed forms of lipoic acid, anyone seeking primarily the antioxidant benefits, would likely receive more benefit from supplementing with the R form.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is another famous antioxidant. It is produced by the human body and is necessary for the basic functioning of cells. CoQ10 levels are reported to decrease with age and to be lower in patients with some chronic diseases. In countries such as Japan, CoQ10 has been extremely popular as an “anti aging pill”. Recently in Canada, some fertility specialists have been recommending high dose CoQ10 and lipoic acid supplementation for some of their patients with poor ovarian reserve (low egg quality) on a trial basis.

The confusing part to many consumers, just like with alpha lipoic acid, is that there are two forms of CoQ10: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. In the body, the enzymatic conversion of ubiquinone to ubiquinol is an essential step in generating cellular energy. It is known that more than 90 percent of the CoQ10 found in a healthy young individual’s plasma is in the ubiquinol form. In addition, the body’s ability to convert ubiquinone to ubiquinol tends to decline with age. Thus, some experts believe that the more powerful antioxidant benefits associated with CoQ10 could be achieved by taking the bioavailable form of CoQ10, ubiquinol.

I have tested a variety of CoQ10 (Ubiquinone) products from different brands over the years with our ORP machine. Recently, we also tested ubiquinol. Based on our recent testing, ubiquinone was measured at +155mv. and ubiquinol was -38mv. Again, the lower the number, the higher the potential antioxidation effect. Two sets of measurements on different days consistently indicated lower ORP values associated with the ubiquinol form.

It should be noted that ubiquinol has been only available in supplement form since late 2006. Most of the previous clinical studies on CoQ10 used the ubiquinone form. It is too early to draw any conclusions about which form of CoQ10 has more health benefits. However based on recent literature and our preliminary ORP data, ubiquinol is a very promising antioxidant. Most CoQ10 products currently sold in stores are in the ubiquinone form.

All of the nutritional and herbal products available at The Pacific Wellness routinely go through detailed review by our practitioners. This includes careful review of ingredients, research, and other related materials. For certain products, we obtain 3rd party analysis for further review. In addition, the ORP and other in-house testing we conduct from time to time, reveals additional information beyond the product’s label, fact sheet, or what the manufacturer’s representatives tell us. It is a part of our ongoing efforts to provide safe and highly effective treatments for our patients.

Note: The ORP value (mv.) presented are means of two measurements on different days. The same nutrients may produce different ORP values depending on the manufacturer. The ORP is not a suitable parameter for evaluating certain groups of antioxidants, such as vitamin C. Please consult your health care practitioner before taking any supplements.