Ultimate Anti-Aging Supplement?
James South, MA
Idebenone (IDB) is a natural analog
(variant) of one of life's most essential biochemicals, coenzyme
Q10 (CoQ10) (Fig. 1). CoQ10 is an important antioxidant
component of the lipid (fatty) membranes that surround all
cells, as well as the lipid membranes surrounding the various
organelles (little organs), such as mitochondria and microsomes,
CoQ10 is also an important member of the Electron Transport
Chain (ETC) within mitochondria, the power plants contained in
every cell (Fig. 2). Most of the oxygen we breathe is used
inside the ETC to produce much of the ATP bioenergy that powers
virtually every activity of our cells and bodies.
Without CoQ10, or a good substitute, human life quickly ends.
Idebenone (IDB) may be a better CoQ10 that has been extensively
researched for over 15 years.
CoQ10s Pro-Oxidant Action
When blood flow is seriously reduced to any part of the body --
due to heart attack, stroke, trauma, shock, or chronic poor
blood circulation -- cellular and mitochondrial oxygen (O2)
levels quickly drop in the affected region. Yet because O2 is
seven-to-eight times more soluble in the lipid zones of cell
membranes, compared to the watery compartments of the cell,
there is still sufficient O2 remaining in the membranes of cells
and organelles, as well as in the ETC, to auto-oxidize CoQ10. As
the CoQ10 auto-oxidizes, hydrogen peroxide, superoxide and
hydroxl free radicals are rapidly formed in massive numbers.
These free radicals quickly damage cell/ organelle structure and
function, as well as rapidly halt ATP energy generation by the
Brain and spinal cord cells are especially prone to such damage,
and may be irreparably damaged or even destroyed within minutes.
Idebenone Superior to CoQ10
Enter IDB to the rescue! Studies have shown that under the same
cellular low oxygen conditions that cause CoQ10 to act as a
pro-oxidant producer of damaging free radicals, IDB prevents the
free radical damage and maintains relatively normal cell ATP
levels. In short, while IDB can effectively substitute for
CoQ10s positive and life- essential functions, it doesnt have
CoQ10s free radical-producing and energy-crashing dark side
which can occur under hypoxic (low O2) conditions.
IDBs potential benefits fall into five categories: (1)
antiaging, (2) energy enhancement, (3) cognition enhancement,
(4) organ protector, and (5) protector against excitatory amino
The mitochondrial power plants produce over 90% of all cellular
ATP bioenergy. They are also generally the richest sites in
CoQ10 (or IDB). Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) allows mitochondria to
While the DNA in a cell nucleus comes from both our parents,
mtDNA comes exclusively from our mothers mtDNA.
There are typically two or three copies of mtDNA in each
mitochondrion, with an average 1000 mitochondria per cell.
Because mtDNA exists in the heart of the fiery furnace where
electron sparks are constantly leaking as ATP is produced in the
ETC, mtDNA is far more prone to free radical electron damage
than is the DNA in our cell nuclei that contains the blueprint
for our entire organism.
At the same time, the repair capacity of mtDNA is much less than
that of our cell nucleus DNA. As a consequence, over the course
of a lifetime our mtDNA becomes ever more damaged, and the
mitochondria produced therefrom become ever more ineffective at
energy generation. Studies comparing heart tissue from young
people with that from elderly people have shown almost no
significant mitochondrial dysfunction in young hearts, with
significant, often severe mitochondrial dysfunction in elderly
The cells that are most susceptible to mitochondrial energy
depletion with advancing age are the brain, skeletal muscle and
heart muscle cells. IDB thus offers a prime anti-aging effect
here in several ways. Unlike CoQ10, even under the low O2
conditions that may occur periodically over a lifetime, IDB will
serve as a powerful mitochondrial free radical quencher,
lessening the ever-increasing mtDNA damage that occurs with age.
IDB will work even better than CoQ10 within the ETC to keep
energy production high, even under hypoxic conditions. This is
especially critical to brain and heart cells that may be rapidly
damaged during low ATP production due to poor tissue
Iron is a dual edged sword. It is absolutely essential for life,
and plays a central role in ATP generation in the ETC. Yet iron
can also be a powerful initiator of free radical production and
cell structural damage, especially under conditions of low O2.
This occurs, for example, during stroke, and during the gradual
onset of Parkinsons disease. Studies have shown that IDB can
tightly couple oxidation to energy production. This prevents
iron ions from wastefully and toxically, diverting O2 to
producing free radicals inside the mitochondria, instead of
Studies have shown that IDB can almost completely eliminate
this, diverting 10% of cellular O2 away from toxic iron induced
free radical generation, to beneficial ATP energy production
under hypoxic conditions.
Mild cellular hypoxia can occur even from intense exercise, or
even from mild exercise done by out-of-shape couch potatoes.
Idebenone and Cognition Enhancement
A variety of studies using brain cells (animal and humans) have
shown IDBs ability to enhance brain structure and function.
Human and animal studies have demonstrated that IDB can enhance
serotonin production, even under far less than optimal
conditions, as e.g. with a very low tryptophan diet, or in
patients with cerebrovascular dementia.
IDB has enhanced cholinergic nerve function and consequent
learning ability even under hypoxic conditions, or when an
anti-cholinergic drug (Scopolamine) was administered. IDB has
increased cellular catecholamine (dopamine, adrenaline and
noradrenanlin) production by enhancing cellular uptake of the
precursor amino acid tyrosine.
IDB enhances long-term potentiation in hippocampal nerve cells,
a key part of memory formation and consolidation. IDB has
restored glucose (brain fuel) utilization and ATP production in
ischemic (poor blood flow) rat-brain.
IDB has been shown to enhance general cerebral metabolism,
lessen the damage from strokes, and has been used to treat
Alzheimers and other dementias (Figures 2 and 3).
Like the original nootropic drug, piracetam, IDB has been shown
to promote information transfer across the corpus callosum, the
membrane separating the right and left brain hemispheres.
This, in turn, may promote the union/ integration of the logical
(yang) and intuitive (yin) halves of the brain/ mind.
Idebenone - Organ Protector
As our organs age or are damaged, we age and are damaged. Over a
lifetime, blood flow to our organs diminishes due to
arteriosclerosis and less efficient heart pumping. This reduces
O2 dependent energy production needed for repair, reproduction
and normal function of the organ cells. Free radical damage
accumulates over time, leaving ever more dead, dying or
dysfunctional cells within organs.
At some point when a critical threshold is reached and too many
cells within an organ are dysfunctional and can no longer
sustain the organs life and function, then the organ--heart,
brain, liver etc., fails.
IDB protects organs in many ways. It cushions them against
hypoxic (low O2) and/ or ischemic (poor blood flow) damage. IDB
enhances both normal and hypoxic ATP energy generation. Each
cell in our organs must produce the energy it needs for life and
health. Cells cannot borrow energy from each other.
Free Radical Quenching
IDB is a powerful antioxidant. Even more so than CoQ10. In some
studies, IDB was 30 to 100 times more effective than vitamin E
or vinpocetine as a free radical quencher within brain cells.
IDB lessens the free radical-induced mtDNA damage that
accumulates, accelerating over a lifetime, slowing organ
damage and aging.
A 1995 study in the Journal of Transplantation compared the
organ-preserving effects of CoQ10 and IDB. The study measured
free radical membrane lipid damage, cell protein damage and
cellular energy production under hypoxic conditions.
IDB was dramatically more effective than CoQ10 at preserving
liver tissue under conditions identical to that endured by whole
livers harvested and stored (briefly) before transplant to
The study recommended using IDB to increase the transplant
viability of human livers donated for organ transplant. Why not
use IDB to increase your own organ viability, while you still
have the use of them!
Idebenone Protects Against Excitatory Amino Acid (EAA)
Glutamic acid and aspartic acid are the two chief EAA
neurotransmitters in the human brain. Without them we would be
Yet under certain conditions, e.g. stroke or traumatic brain
injury--excessive amounts of EAAs accumulate in the fluid
surrounding brain cells, causing damage and even death to nerve
and glial cells through free radical mechanisms.
EAA toxicity is at least partly responsible for the
neurotoxicity of the recreational drug Ecstasy or MDMA. Studies
over the past 30 years have also shown that excessive dietary
intake of EAAs may also damage brain structure/ function,
especially in children or EAA sensitive adults.
The two main dietary sources of EAAs are the flavor enhancer MSG
(monosodium glutamate) and the artificial sweetener aspartame
(Nutrasweet®). Also many processed foods (e.g. canned soups, dry
roasted spiced peanuts, beef/ chicken bouillon, canned tuna,
spices etc.) contain hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast
extract, soy protein isolate and similar ingredients that are
In studies with various types of nerve cell, as well as
oligodendroglial cells (which make up the protective myelin
sheaths surrounding many nerves, the so-called white matter of
the brain), IDB has shown dramatic protective effects against
With all these powers, IDB should now rightfully take its place
in the first rank of anti-aging/ nootropic/ energizer drugs,
along with Hydergine, Piracetam, vinpocetine,
acetyl-L-carnitine, deprenyl and GH3/ KH3 (and its one of my
personal favorites!) So who can benefit from Idebenone? The
- Healthy people, desiring cognitive enhancement and
brain energizer effects (it synergizes well with piracetam,
vinpocetine and Hydergine). 2 or 3 tablets (45 mg each)
- Stroke victims, wishing to improve
memory, emotional or speech disturbances. 3 to 6 tablets (45
mg each) daily.
- Alzheimers and cerebrovascular dementia
patients. 4 to 6 tablets (45 mg each) daily.
- Those preparing for major surgery,
especially brain, heart, liver or kidney. Synergizes well
with Hydergine. 4 to 6 tablets (45 mg each).
- People with heart energetics problems,
e.g. cardiomyopathy, ischemic heart disease, congestive
heart failure. 3 to 6 tablets (45 mg each) daily.
- People with myelination problems, e.g.
multiple sclerosis or white matter stroke injury. 3 to 6
tablets (45 mg each) daily.
- Those seeking to increase their general
energy and vitality levels. 2 to 3 tablets (45 mg each)
- People with especially high endurance
energy needs, e.g. cross country skiers, long distance
runners, cyclists, swimmers etc. 3 to 4 tablets (45 mg each)
- Those at risk of EAA brain damage, e.g.
people who routinely consume large amounts of aspartame
sweetened foods/ drinks, or those who routinely eat MSG or
hydrolyzed vegetable protein containing restaurant or
prepared foods. 2 or 3 tablets (45 mg each) daily.
- People wishing to enhance the brain
serotonin benefits of tryptophan or oxitriptan
(5-hydroxy-tryptophan) supplements or SSRI drugs, such as
Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft or Luvox etc. 2 to 4 tablets (45 mg
- Those suffering acute or chronic liver
damage from poison mushrooms, toxic chemicals, hepatitis
etc. 2 to 4 tablets (45 mg each) daily.
- People desiring a long haul
broad-spectrum anti-aging drug. Synergizes well with
deprenyl, Hydergine, GH3/ KH3. 2 or 3 tablets (45 mg each)
Because of its synergy with other life extension drugs, those
also taking any or all of Hydergine, Piracetam (and its
analogues, vinpocetine, deprenyl, GH3/ KH3 may benefit from
even just one 45 mg tablet a day, especially if taken regularly
on a long-term basis. Because idebenone is fat-soluble, it is
best taken with a fat-rich meal, or with lipid
absorption-enhancing agents such as lecithin or phosphatidyl
Numerous studies have shown that idebenone is well distributed
throughout the body after absorption, accumulating in cellular
and organelle membranes, as well as in the electron transport
chain, exactly where it does the most good!
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