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
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.
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 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
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
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
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
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
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.)
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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"
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
1999 Nobel Prize Winner, Dr. Gunter
Blobel, Rockefeller University, New
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
having protein [carriers] is not supported
by my work." (April
Below is a review
of the study that the claims about
the superiority of "food-grown-type"
Co-Q10 are based on.
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
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.
If the reported results of this non-published,
un-referenced paper can be corroborated,
this could be a tremendous nutritional
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.
How do these results apply to what
happens in live humans (in-vivo)?
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.
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.
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?
concept is roughly equivalent to finding
a way to make a jet plane go 9.6 times
faster than any jet plane has previously
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"
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.
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
of researchers would likely immediately
begin studying these newly discovered
mechanisms, not only in nutrients,
but also for use in drugs.
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?
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
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
The Other Part
of The Study: Stability of Two Forms
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.
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.
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
this part of the study applies to
what happens during the few hours
after Co-Q10 is ingested by humans
(orally) is not explained.
Line Cost Considerations
the cost of the "food-grown-type"
Co-Q10 is $1.33 per 22 mg capsule,
then it costs 5.13 cents per mg.
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.
Really Is 9.6 Time More Effective
Than USP-Type CoQ10
"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)
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.)
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.
"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.
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%)
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
Co-Q10 requires 13 1/2 times more
capsules to provide an equivalent
No matter how it
is calculated, "food-grown-type" Co-Q10
is far more expensive than USP-type
Versus Proven Benefit Is A Consistent
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.
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.
or questions may be directed to:
Director of Research
Program For Wellness Restoration