Food-Grown-Type Co-Q10

HIV Nutrient Supplementation: Should I Use "Food-Grown-Type" Co-Q10?
By Michael Mooney, December, 2002


I have read your How To Manage Side Effects Guide recommendations and heard the words of Charlie Smigelski, a dietitian who specializes in HIV nutrition and works at Tufts and Harvard University. You both said that Co-Q10 is an immune-supporting nutrient, and that it might help to reduce some HIV-related lipodystrophy symptoms, like fat loss in the face. Facial fat loss is causing me to be terribly depressed. I went to a health food store to ask about Co-Q10 and they told me that I should only take "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 because regular USP-type Co-Q10 can be "toxic" to my immune system. They also said that "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 "has 9.6 times more anti-oxidant activity than regular USP-type CoQ10." I haven't heard you say anything about "food-grown" nutrients, so I was curious why you haven't written about them. Should I buy "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 instead of regular CoQ10? It costs a lot more.

Definition of terms: 
USP stands for United States Pharmacopeia, a standard for measuring production purity in isolated nutrients, like vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. USP-type Coenzyme-Q10 is what is commonly sold in health stores. It is the type of Co-Q10 that has been investigated in numerous independently published scientific studies over many years. USP-type Co-Q10 has been proven to provide several benefits in published studies in the peer-reviewed medical literature, including being used for cancers and cardiovascular diseases. (See: Frishman WH. Co-enzyme Q10: a new drug for cardiovascular disease. J Clin Pharmacol 1990 Jul;30(7):598-608.) 

There are several dietary supplement companies that market nutrients that can be classified as "food-grown-type" nutrients. This class of products are basically a mixture of USP-type nutrients and food materials, like yeast, that are combined in a proprietary laboratory process, that sometimes involves fermentation. Each company has a different trademarked name that is used to describe their version of this type of product. The product names usually include the word "food." In the national health-food marketplace, the words "food-grown" are commonly used by store personnel when talking about this type of nutrient, regardless of which company's products are being considered. For simplicity's sake, this article defers to popular terminology and refers to this class of nutrient products as "food-grown-type" nutrients.

So-called "food-grown-type" nutrients are controversial. Companies that market them generally claim that they have significantly better absorption and utilization in the body than the pure isolated USP-type nutrients that are contained in the majority of dietary supplement products. 

USP-type nutrients are the same familiar nutrient products that have been studied by thousands of scientists and taken by hundreds of millions of people in daily vitamin formulas for over 50 years. While there are over 200,000 independent published scientific studies showing the safety and effectiveness of USP-type nutrients, there are no independent published studies validating the claims of superiority that are made about "food-grown-type" nutrients. 

Some studies of "food-grown-type" nutrients have been conducted, but all of the available published studies were funded by "food-grown-type" nutrient manufacturers and conducted by one paid researcher, so none of them are independent.

One claim made about "food-grown-type" nutrients that should probably be evaluated carefully is that "food-grown-type" nutrients are claimed to be more "natural" than USP-type nutrients, seemingly in the same way that real, whole, fresh food is more natural than a single isolated vitamin, like Vitamin B1. 

The descriptive words "food-grown" or the use of the word "food" in the product description or product name generally produce an impression that the products are natural, so many people simply take claims about naturalness or relative safety on faith without asking questions.

In-depth research shows that while the words "food-grown" and promotional literature that is used to sell "food-grown-type" nutrients often create a first impression that the nutrients are extracted directly from whole, fresh food, like broccoli or carrots, one study that was funded by a company that manufactures "food-grown-type" nutrients confirms that "food-grown-type" calcium, as one example, is actually produced using USP-type calcium chloride that is combined in a laboratory with "water, starch protein and a live yeast mixture." (See: Vinson JA, et al. Comparison of different forms of calcium on blood pressure of normotensive young males. Nutr Rep Int sept 1987;36(3):498.)

Combining several ingredients in a laboratory procedure this way is literally defined as synthesis, so "food-grown-type" calcium is actually synthetic by definition. 

According to Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, 13th Edition, the form of calcium that is used to produce "food-grown-type" calcium, calcium chloride, is generally synthesized in a laboratory from the most abundant natural form of calcium, calcium carbonate. So "food-grown-type" calcium, as reported in this study, is produced through two synthetic steps, with the original natural source material being calcium carbonate. 

"Food-grown-type" nutrients are created in a laboratory process that was designed by humans. They are not harvested directly from the Earth or produced by Mother Nature. 

To be clear, just because something is synthesized does not mean that it is "bad" or that it cannot be utilized by the body to support optimum health. Most isolated USP-type single nutrients are synthesized from other natural ingredients. Synthesis simply means to combine two or more things to create something else. But something that is synthesized cannot be considered to be the same as whole, fresh food. Promotional materials for "food-grown-type" products often describe them as "food" or as "100% whole food," but "food-grown-type" nutrients have more resemblance to bio-engineered food, a product designed by humans, than whole food.  

After this is considered, it is important to note that "food-grown-type" nutrients, whether B-vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or other nutrients, cost 8 to 14 times more than USP-type nutrients, and because of the amount of space they take up, they require 4 to 8 times as many tablets or capsules as USP-type nutrients. 

"Food-grown-type" Co-Q10, for instance, costs over 13 times more than regular USP-type CoQ10. 

For this much difference in cost, I personally require that there is conclusive published data verifying that the product is at least 13 times more effective than the USP-type version of the product. However, there are no independent published human studies that support the claim that "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 is superior to commonly available Co-Q10.  

A statement on the label of one "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 product claims that a study showed that "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 has "9.6 times more antioxidant activity than USP-type Co-Q10." Another claim that is made is that "22 mg of "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 works better than 200 mg of USP-type Co-Q10." 

I called the manufacturer of this product and was faxed a copy of the study that is purported to support these claims. It is a test-tube (in vitro) study, so it is not clear how the results apply to real live humans (in vivo). The study is not an independent study, as it was paid for by the manufacturer of "food-grown-type" Co-Q10. It was also conducted by the same researcher who has conducted all the available "food-grown-type" nutrient studies. Its results can not be considered to be conclusive. 

My personal standards for taking or recommending dietary supplements generally require more substantial data than what was given to me for "food-grown-type" Co-Q10. This is especially important when the product costs many times more than other similar commonly available Co-Q10 products. Since I write this article for HIV(+) people, cost is an especially important issue, as many HIV(+) people have only disability income to sustain themselves. 

Two points to keep in mind when you read the review of the "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 study that appears below; at this time, the health food store marketplace is flooded with claims about so-called "food-grown-type" nutrients, but, as was said earlier, there are no available independent published studies to support these claims. Not only are all the available published studies funded by the manufacturers, but after approximately 20 years, all the available published data has been produced by one paid researcher. It is curious that after 20 years only one paid researcher has published studies on "food-grown-type" nutrients. My personal standards for verifying scientific information as being conclusive require multiple independent peer-reviewed studies by multiple independent authors.

As to the notion that USP-type regular Co-Q10 might be "toxic" to your immune system, consider that neither "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 nor regular USP-type Co-Q10 have been shown in any independent published study to be in any way toxic to your immune system at normal supplemental doses. Quite the contrary, as Co-Q10 is known to be beneficial to the immune system while having other proven benefits, including supporting cardiovascular/heart health and the health of tissues like gums.

Read An In-Depth Analysis
I have conducted an in-depth investigation of the history of "food-grown-type" nutrients and an analysis of the limited published studies that have been conducted on "food-grown-type" nutrients. This investigation resulted in a 9,600 word article detailing everything I have learned about "food-grown-type" nutrients. This article provides many reasons to consider claims about "food-grown-type" nutrients carefully. Click here to read it.

For instance, it will include the words of Dr. Gunter Blobel, the 1999 Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine. Dr. Blobel's name is being used in promotional materials that promote some "food-grown-type" nutrients without Dr. Blobel's permission. The promotional literature says that the claims being made about the "food-grown-type" products being promoted have been "proven" by the work of Dr. Gunter Blobel. Below is the quote Dr. Blobel gave me related to these claims. 

Statement From 1999 Nobel Prize Winner, Dr. Gunter Blobel, Rockefeller University, New York City

In a response to questions about his research being linked to "food-grown-type" nutrients, Dr. Gunter Blobel said, 
"........ statements about me in their promotional literature are utter nonsense and misleading. My work on protein carriers has nothing to do with their products, and what they are saying about their products having protein [carriers] is not supported by my work."  (April 29, 2001)   

Below is a review of the study that the claims about the superiority of "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 are based on.

Review: Comparative Antioxidant Study On Two Forms Of Co-Q10
Study authored by Joseph A. Vinson, Ph.D. (May 12, 1998)


This is a five-paragraph non-published, un-referenced test tube (in-vitro) study prepared by the only scientist who is still doing studies on "food-grown-type" nutrients. (The only other researcher who did studies on "food-grown-type" nutrients in the 1980's, Dr. Herman Baker, has stated that the results of his studies were being "manipulated for commercial purposes" and has done no other studies or published the studies he conducted.)

Joseph A. Vinson, Ph.D., over the years has been hired to author over 50 such papers on "food-grown-type" nutrients. Most are short, only a few paragraphs. Only two of these papers have been published in accredited peer-reviewed scientific journals that are available on Medline.

Comment: If the reported results of this non-published, un-referenced paper can be corroborated, this could be a tremendous nutritional breakthrough.

Comment: This test-tube (in-vitro) study does not include the specific results of the observations and data from the study, just notes from the undisclosed results that said that the antioxidant effects of "food-grown-type" CoQ10 and USP CoQ10 on LDL and VLDL cholesterol were calculated, with the final comment being that the "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 molecules were 9.6 times stronger as an anti-oxidant than USP Co-Q10.

Question: How do these results apply to what happens in live humans (in-vivo)? 

Comment: If this discovery were true it would be a tremendous scientific discovery. One consideration is that while this study presents conclusions that go beyond the bounds of well-known biochemistry, none of the calculations to arrive at them are included in this paper, and this paper has never been published in the scientific literature. This is a concern. A discovery as important as this might be could yield the Nobel Prize, as this is definitely a Nobel Prize level discovery.

Comment: It is a concern that the author didn't formalize this study with references, especially since he refers to one of his previously published studies, but doesn't tell you what the study was or where to find it.

Comment: The obvious questions about the type of anti-oxidant activities that such a molecule as Co-Q10 is capable of begs the question of how those molecular functions can be increased 9.6 times. For example, does the transfer of electrons associated with anti-oxidant activities proceed at 9.6 times the normal rate for the food-grown-type Co-Q10? Or is the "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 molecule somehow more rapidly "recharged" so that it can regenerate itself (after whatever oxygen-quenching it has done) 9.6 times faster than USP-type Co-Q10 molecules?

This concept is roughly equivalent to finding a way to make a jet plane go 9.6 times faster than any jet plane has previously gone.

Question: Does the molecular function of food-grown-type Co-Q10 somehow change at the electron level because the molecule has been imbedded in the undefined "natural" food-grown-type matrix?

Questions: Is there some mysterious substance in the "natural" food-grown-type matrix that inhibits the oxidative action of the pro-oxidant agent that was used to cause oxidation in the experiment, copper oxide, which would not inhibit oxidation caused by other pro-oxidants, like iron oxide? These are important, if preliminary, biochemical questions that need to be answered so that the world can know the details of this, perhaps, tremendous discovery.

Why is this important? Well, if there is some way that Co-Q10's anti-oxidant activity can be increased 9.6 times by manipulation of the molecule, then most probably, other nutritional molecules can be manipulated as well to increase anti-oxidant activity.

Dozens of researchers would likely immediately begin studying these newly discovered mechanisms, not only in nutrients, but also for use in drugs.

Comment: If this discovery is real, then it is a multi-billion dollar discovery. One logical concern is: Why is it tucked away, seemingly casually written and used only for marketing purposes?

Comment: Since the above study was done by the only researcher who is doing studies on food grown nutrients, the question arises: if all food-grown-type nutrients demonstrate increased efficiency, why have the only studies reporting these amazing facts been done by only one researcher paid by the food-grown-type companies.

Why has no other researcher, doctor or university published a study on food-grown-type nutrients that showed these kinds of results in the over twenty years that food-grown-type nutrients have been available?  

The Other Part of The Study: Stability of Two Forms of Co-Q10
In this part of the study, the two forms of Co-Q10 were put in beakers and exposed to air for three months. As expected, the Co-Q10 molecules surrounded by the "natural" food matrix were exposed to less oxygen than the USP-type Co-Q10 molecules that were directly exposed to air. So the food matrix-covered Co-Q10 molecules didn't get oxidized as much as the Co-Q10 molecules that were exposed directly to air without the protection of the "natural" food matrix.

At the end of three months, the raw pure Co-Q10 molecules degraded (oxidized) 20.6% more than the "natural" food-matrix-covered protected Co-Q10 molecules.

Comment: This shows that if an anti-oxidant, like Co-Q10, is kept out of direct contract with air because it is surrounded with a material that serves to insulate it from oxygen, it will not degrade as fast as if it were left out in the air. The results might have been similar if the UPS-type Co-Q10 had been embedded in a food matrix made of many common foods, such as peanut butter.

How this part of the study applies to what happens during the few hours after Co-Q10 is ingested by humans (orally) is not explained.

Bottom Line Cost Considerations 


If the cost of the "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 is $1.33 per 22 mg capsule, then it costs 5.13 cents per mg.

If a commonly available USP-type Co-Q10 product (i.e. Jarrow Formulas Ultra Potent Co-Q10) costs 38 cents per 100 mg, then it costs 0.38 cents per mg, less than one thirteenth as much as "food-grown-type" CO-Q10.  

If "Food-Grown-Type" Co-Q10 Really Is 9.6 Time More Effective Than USP-Type CoQ10

If "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 really is 9.6 times more effective than USP-type Co-Q10, it will only take 10.4 mg to get the equivalent of 100 mg of USP-type Co-Q10. (100 mg divided by 9.6 = 10.4 mg)

Then the cost to the customer for the 10.4 mg of "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 that would equal 100 mg of USP CoQ10 would be 53 cents. (10.4 mg x 5.13 cents per mg = 53 cents.)

As noted above, the cost of a 100 mg capsule of USP-type Co-Q10 (i.e. Jarrow Formulas Ultra Potent Co-Q10) is 38 cents for a 100 mg capsule.

If "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 really is 9.6 times more effective than USP-type Co-Q10, then it takes 53 cents worth of "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 to get the equivalent effect of 38 cents worth of the USP-type Co-Q10.  

This means that the USP-type Co-Q10 product costs 15 cents less to get the same effective dose. (53 cents minus 38 cents  = 15 cents) In this scenario, the "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 is 39.4 percent more expensive than the USP-type Co-Q10. (0.38 divided by 0.15 = 39.4%)

If "Food-Grown-Type" Co-Q10 Is Not 9.6 Time More Effective Than USP-Type CoQ10


If the test-tube (in-vitro) Vinson study does not actually apply to live humans (in-vivo), and the "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 is really no better than regular USP-type Co-Q10, then "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 is 13 1/2 times (1,350 percent) more expensive than USP-type Co-Q10. (5.13 cents per mg divided by 0.38 cents per mg = 13.5 = 1,350 percent) If this is correct, "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 requires 13 1/2 times more capsules to provide an equivalent effect.


No matter how it is calculated, "food-grown-type" Co-Q10 is far more expensive than USP-type Co-Q10.

Cost Versus Proven Benefit Is A Consistent Concern

This are consistent considerations with the use of "food-grown-type" nutrients when they are compared to USP-type nutrients. The higher costs of "food-grown-type" nutrients are not justifiable by published scientific studies, and the limited numbers of studies that have been conducted on "food-grown-type" nutrients do not provide strong scientific support for claims of superior absorption or superior effects. Additionally, none of the studies have been published by independent researchers. 

These concerns stand in contrast to a cost versus benefit analysis of USP-type nutrients that show significant benefits, while requiring fewer tablets for less cost, with over 200,000 independent published studies validating benefits.



Comments or questions may be directed to: 

Michael Mooney
Director of Research
Program For Wellness Restoration

return to home page | contact us