PQQ-CoQ10 Part 1: PQQ Supplementation – Physiological Player or Misleading Molecule? Does the hype justify the price?

PQQ-CoQ10 Part 1: PQQ Supplementation – Physiological Player or Misleading Molecule? Does the hype justify the price?

Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) has recently become evident in the supplement industry, with prices ranging from between £20-25 despite the supplement being a relatively new nutritional ‘player’ as a performance enhancing (ergogenic) aid: the 30 capsules you will receive for the aforementioned price will equate to 15 days of PQQ dietry supplementation.. So, how many mitochondria can you ‘grow’ and how many years can you ‘extend your life’  by in 15 days? ~ The Well Traveled Wellness boys have decieded to get nerdy in some cellular physiology to make sure you are getting value for your money.. if at all possible!

PQQ, often refered to as quinoproteins, is water-soluble and heat stable which under appropriate conditions is capable of inducing the ability to catalyse repeated oxidation and reduction reactions (known as redox cycling; Stites et al, 2000) on a cellular physiological level. Unlike other bioactive quinones capable of such redox cycling (Epicatechin) that tend to self oxidise, PQQ’s stability elicits an enhanced capacity to carry out thousands of these cycles (Rucker et al, 2009), resulting in attributed physiological properties of antioxidant potential (Stites et al, 2000; Steinberg et al, 2003; Ouchi et al, 2009) and in cellular signaling pathways (Chowanadaisai et al, 2007). PQQ’s importance to health is also documented in the scientific literature with omission of the quinoprotein in chemically refined diets shown to elicit growth impairment and abnormal reproductive performance (No one wants to be small and infertile right?) in addition to compromised immune system response (Stites et al, 2000; Bauerly et al, 2006) in rat and mice models: utilised due to their comparableness to human physiology.

So why are you buying PQQ? What is its selling point?

PQQ is marketed specifically at ‘extending your life’ and ‘growing’ mitochondria: which in a scientific setting is centred on the antioxidant potential of PQQ attenuating mitochondrial dysfunction: common in the muscle wasting associated with ageing (Sarcopenia), and increasing the oxidative capacity of your muscles by increasing the density of mitochondria available to provide ‘energy’ during exercise, but does this happen? .. and if so, is this physiologically significant to your life and performance and not just in a scientific journal analysing statistical difference between conditions?

First of all.. if you suffer from a disease which is either mediated or influenced by mitochondrial dysfunction, a PQQ supplement from the internet for £25 is not the answer: Do not pass go, do not collect £200 (shameless monopoly references), consult your doctor and it is P<0.05 that the most effective intervention will be prescribed by those with the necessitated qualifications/experience. Housekeeping aside, PQQ has been documented to elicit the growth/addition of new mitochondria (known as mitochondriogenesis or mitochondrial biogenesis) mediated by specific genes involved in this process (for the nerds: PGC-1a: a transcriptional co-activator that regulates genes involved in energy metabolism, & Nuclear Respiratory Factors; Puigserver et al, 2005; Debray et al, 2008; Muoio et al, 2007).

*At this point some of the effects of PQQ are at a level of cellular physiology which I am NOT ashamed to say excites me greatly – hence although not appropriate for this article.. In true academia/nerd style I have procrastinated and summarised this literature anyway: If you would like to read this then hit me up and say hello at rowan@welltraveledwellness.com and I’ll be more than happy to send it out to you guys & girls/answer any questions*

Anyway.. as the caffeine I depend on (in large quantities) daily is binding nicely to my adenosine A2A receptors making me feel like I could complete an Ironman while reading a book and then clean the house its time to crack on!

As previously mentioned it is important to distinguish the difference between scientific journals presenting significant difference between conditions, the validity, reproducibility and experimental design of these studies and the magnitude of effect applicable in the context that you are seeking to interpret the results. Example time: one of the most recent studies to look the effect of PQQ on indices of enhanced oxidative metabolism in human participants (Harris et al, 2013) was comprised of two studies utilising differing doses and time-points for analysis – hence reading the findings in an abstract and title of paper is not sufficient to determine if the study is valid. Although the paper was well designed (aside from a lack of dietary standardisation pre-trial), the various aspects to the methodology underlining the papers results outlines the importance of critical evaluation when taking away actionable advice applicable to you, especially if it ends up costing you £50 a month.

With regard to the magnitude of effect in relation to your desired goals for PQQ (in this case supplementation to increase oxidative exercise capacity), although beneficial alterations in urinary metabolites related to mitochondrial function were observed (indicating enhanced aerobic metabolism; Harris et al, 2013) it is important to consider that these changes were documented in resting muscle and no research (as far as I am aware) has investigated the effect of PQQ on aerobic metabolism during exercise performance ~ it is also a controversial area in physiological literature if anti-oxidant redox of the cell is beneficial or not for performance (Close & Jackson, 2014 – http://jp.physoc.org/content/592/8/1721.extract#)

Harris et al (2013) are one of the first studies to link effects of PQQ in animals to human physiology, which although exciting in terms of the literature of PQQ developing – outlines its infancy in comparison to other additional ergogenic aids, such as the most proven and often the most forgotten.. strenuous exercise stimuli! The physiological evidence for PQQ supplementation, as an ergogenic aid is developing, especially on a cellular/molecular level, however the most important takeaway is a simple old adage: Two heads are better than one – e.g. The body of accumulated literature evaluating the physiological effect of a substance over time (acute and chronic) on the cellular/molecular level in addition to performance outcome measures is necessitated before its worth is, in my opinion, marketable and debit-able for your hard earned money!

The aforementioned paper (Harris et al, 2013) is one of 10 accumulated references manipulated into a product by David Asprey at Bullet Proof Executive: https://www.upgradedself.com/unfair-advantage, which inspired this article. David’s exploitation of consumers knowledge in an field where they are not educated is in my opinion a perfect example of the importance in deciding who to trust in this industry – Let David know what I think of his unethical exploitation of trusting customers for $59.95 on twitter @bulletproofexec or @BPNutrition. I am however not one of the opinion that he who shouts loudest wins, David (If that is your real name.. ‘Jokes’) get in touch or comment below, as a rationale for your product would be an interesting read/discussion I’d love to have. Please however bare in mind that my comments are not routed with animosity, yet more with concern over your ethical stand point/and your consumers place/misplaced trust.

Until then.. here are, in my opinion, 10 things that are better value (and miles more FUN) than PQQ for improving aerobic performance/health while also living a spontaneous lifestyle full of exciting new experiences:

*PQQ – £50 (Market average/month) x 12months = £600 per annum*

1. 18 days Trekking Annapurna, Nepal. Your PQQ budget + £199 – http://g.statravel.co.uk/trips/trekking-annapurna/ANTA/2014/

2. One week at Wakeboard School! Your PQQ budget + £26 – http://www.xtreme-gene.com/?page_id=2453

3. One week snowboarding in Val Thoren, French Alps! Your PQQ budget + £49 – http://www.thomsonski.co.uk/search/sr.1

4. Go for two extra runs per week! SAVE £600!

5. 5-day coach pass to Run with the Bulls in Spain! – Your PQQ budget + SAVE £321 – http://www.bullrunpamplona.com/

6. Padi Advanced Open Water Course! Your PQQ budget + SAVE £415 – http://www.thomson.co.uk/destinations/attraction/Sharm-El-Sheikh/Padi-Advanced-Open-Water-Course-994034

7. 12 Month Gym Membership in London (most expensive) Your PQQ budget + £36 – https://www.fitnessfirst.co.uk/join-us/

8. Family Caving in Budapest, Hungary! Your PQQ budget + SAVE £585 – http://caving.hu/

9. 7 days cycling from Bruges to Brussels! Your PQQ budget + £30 – http://www.freedomtreks.co.uk/cycling-holidays-detail/belgium/family-cycling/bruges-to-brussels-ms-magnifique/4/3/252/

10. 7 days Rock Climbing in Costa Blanca! Your PQQ budget + £95 – http://www.rockandsun.com/rock-climbing-holidays/sport-climbing-holiday/


Stites TE, Mitchell AE, Rucker RB. Physiological importance of quinoenzymes and the O-quinone family of cofactors. J Nutr 2000;130:719-727.

Steinberg F, Stites TE, Anderson P, et al. Pyrroloquinoline quinone improves growth and reproductive performance in mice fed chemically defined diets. Exp Biol Med (Maywood) 2003;228:160-166

Ouchi A, Nakano M, Nagaoka S, Mukai K.
Kinetic study of the antioxidant activity of pyrroloquinolinequinol (PQQH(2), a reduced form of pyrroloquinolinequinone) in micellar solution. J Agric Food Chem 2009;57:450-456.

Bauerly KA, Storms DH, Harris CB, et al. Pyrroloquinoline quinone nutritional status alters lysine metabolism and modulates mitochondrial DNA content in the mouse and rat. Biochim Biophys Acta 2006;1760:1741-1748.

Chowanadisai W, Bauerly K, Tchaparian E, Rucker RB. Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis. FASEB J 2007;21:854

Puigserver P. Tissue-specific regulation of metabolic pathways through the transcriptional coactivator PGC1-alpha. Int J Obe (Lond) 2005;29:S5-S9.

Debray FG, Lambert M, Mitchell GA. Disorders of mitochondrial function. Curr Opin Pediatr 2008;20:471-482.

Muoio DM, Koves TR. Skeletal muscle adaptation to fatty acid depends on coordinated actions of the PPARs and PGC-1alpha: implications for metabolic disease. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 2007;32:874-883.

Rucker, R., Chowanadisai, W., Nakano, M. (2009). Potential physiological importance of Pyrroloquinoline Quinone. Alternative Medicine Review,14, 3.

Harrisa, C.B., Chowanadisaia, W., Mishchuka, D.O., Satrea, MA., Slupskya, C.M., Rucker, R.B. (2013). Dietary pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) alters indicators of inflammation and mitochondrial-related metabolism in human subjects. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 24, 2076–2084.