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Idebenone Compared to CoQ10: What's the Difference?

By Blake Cooley December 05, 2019 0 comments

Much like CoQ10, it can be taken as a supplement to internally fight free radicals or topically to externally fight them. It's even said that Idebenone is able to slow down the aging process much better than CoQ10. They're also prescribed in higher dosages by doctors for a variety of health reasons. 

But aren't they the same thing?

The answer to that question is yes, but also no. The differences may be unnoticeable, but there are some key factors that differentiate the two supplements. Keep reading to learn more about Idebenone and CoQ10, and how they differ. 

The Differences Between Idebenone and CoQ10

Both CoQ10 and Idebenone are often mistaken for one another because of all their similarities, including the fact that they can both be purchased over the counter in supplement form. They can also be prescribed for a variety of conditions, including high cholesterol and heart disease. However, they're not as similar as they may appear. 

To understand what makes them so different, you have to understand each of them on a fundamental level:


Often you will find CoQ10 under the surname Ubiquinone. Scientifically, the term is more or less a classification of naturally occurring compounds that act as "electron-transfer agents" in cells. Individually, CoQ10 along with any related compounds are individually labeled as "quinones". 

CoQ10 is also short for Coenzyme Q10 and is an essential fat-soluble compound that our bodies produce naturally. the compound gets stored in the mitochondria of each individual cell and plays several important roles in our bodies. Most importantly, it helps to generate energy from our cells by converting food and stored fat into energy.

It's also recognized as a powerful antioxidant that protects the cells from free radical damage. While our bodies produce it, it can also be found in food such as poultry, beef, pork, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, sardines, mackerel, herring, peanuts, lentils, oranges, strawberries, etc. Higher concentrations of the compound are found in organ meats like the liver and kidneys. 

CoQ10 has another form: Ubiquinol. Ubiquinol considered as the active antioxidant and is made from ubiquinone. As we age, our overall levels of CoQ10 begin to drop as Ubiquinol loses its ability to form from the compound.


Idebenone, also referred to as IDE is actually a synthetic compound that mimics ubiquinone (CoQ10). It was initially developed to treat cognitive defects such as Alzheimer's disease but did not have much success in its early stages. IDE is now being used to treat a variety of diseases including heart and liver disease, Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) and a range of muscular and nerve disorders. 

Idebenone is also used in topical lotions and creams to improve aging skin and protect it from oxidative damage. This includes the damage caused by various environmental factors such as pollution, smoke, airborne toxins, and the UV rays from the sun. Idebenone works by targeting and neutralizing the free radicals within our cells. It's able to repair already damaged cells as well. 

The Same, But Different

Arguably the main difference between Idebenone and CoQ10 is the fact that CoQ10 is naturally produced within our bodies and Idebenone is a man-made substance. While Idebenone is like a carbon copy, it was also concocted to be more powerful than its natural counterpart.

The real differences can be found in the physiochemical makeup of the two compounds. While the Coenzyme Q10 structure is almost identical to that of idebenone, their physicochemical properties vary in their solubility. If you'll recall, CoQ10 behaves like a vitamin, meaning that it's fat-soluble. Since it's a fat-soluble compound, it cannot be dissolved in an aqueous solution—or, water. 

The chemical structure of Idebenone contains significantly fewer carbon atoms—CoQ10 has 50 while Idebenone only has 10. This enables the synthetic compound to be dissolved in water almost immediately. The solubility of the two compounds is also the very thing responsible for all of their functional differences.

Functionally speaking, aside from being naturally produced by our bodies, CoQ10 also has a greater bioavailability than Idebenone. However, it's absorbed much slower by the intestinal tract when taken orally. Our bodies also must go through a certain process in order to extract the Ubiquinol from the compound and put it to use.

As we age, and in some cases become deficient in this compound, we also lose the ability to make the necessary extraction. Therefore, it remains ineffective in any dosage.

Idebenone, on the other hand, is technically already in the Ubiquinol form. This means that once it's absorbed by the intestinal tract—and it's absorbed and metabolized much quicker than CoQ10—it can be used immediately by the body. More importantly, Idebenone acts as a powerful antioxidant in the Mitochondria of the cells as well. CoQ10 does not.

This is important because the Mitochondria are free-radical laden and depend an efficient electron transfer for protection. A 2014 study indicates that because Idebenone has the ability to transport electrons and recycle certain vitamins within the body efficiently, it can play a part in neuroprotection in people suffering from certain mitochondrial deficiencies. This once again would include a variety of neurological diseases as well as cardiovascular diseases and other conditions. 

And the Winner is...

The jury is out and it's safe to say that Idebenone performs better in the body than CoQ10, especially when it's taken for specific health conditions. Of course, CoQ10 still remains a cosmetic champion in the realm of topical creams to fight those wrinkles. However, anything CoQ10 can do, Idebenone can do better it seems. 

Are you curious about Idebenone supplements and creams? We're here to answer any and all of your questions. And of course, always speak with your physician before adding new supplements to your daily regimen. 

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