Most people learn about enzymes in their biology classes sometime in high school. But that basic overview doesn’t explain coenzymes and just how important they are for bodily health.
In truth, coenzymes are just as important as regular enzymes and might even matter more, since enzymes wouldn’t function without coenzymes there to help their chemical reactions along. Let’s break down exactly what a coenzyme is and why these special molecules matter for your everyday health.
What Are Coenzymes?
To understand coenzymes, we’ll need to break down some basic biology definitions and get a grasp of how cellular reactions work.
- Cellular reactions occur when enzymes – which are proteins that act as catalysts to speed up or mediate a chemical reaction – bind to one or more molecules and cause an exchange of energy or cause molecular transformation.
- These types of chemical reactions are vital for life, but only at the right speed. When left alone, regular enzymes do not catalyze reactions fast enough to break down energy or sustain life.
- Coenzymes are usually paired with regular enzymes. In the same way that enzymes bind to cells and molecules, coenzymes bind to regular enzymes.
- By binding with regular enzymes, coenzymes catalyze the corresponding reaction more quickly and allow the enzyme to do its vital work more efficiently.
- In short, both enzymes and coenzymes are necessary for life, and for essentially all of your body’s natural functions.
Because of this process, coenzymes can be found in just about every cell throughout your body. Coenzymes are also reusable non-proteins that contain carbon, which further distinguishes them from enzymes. If you have a background in chemistry, you’ll know why this is important: carbon is one of the most stable molecules in the natural world, so it works well as a binding agent for different molecule types.
But all that’s just details. The bottom line is this: coenzymes are required for regular bodily functions since they assist regular enzymes in breaking down energy, transforming cellular reactions, and performing other molecular changes everywhere in your cells.
How Do Coenzymes Help the Body?
Let’s break down coenzymes in a little more detail. An enzyme without a coenzyme is called an apoenzyme, which means that it won’t catalyze reactions very effectively. In some cases, the enzyme won’t work whatsoever.
As soon as that enzyme gets a coenzyme, however, it becomes an active enzyme or holoenzyme. This new enzyme can change substrates and molecules into products that your body needs to carry out various operations and functions. These reactions can be either chemical or physiological.
Since coenzymes can be reused and recycled, they're quite efficient. But your body still breaks down coenzymes over time, or otherwise passes them through waste, sweat, and other functions. This means it's important to replenish your coenzymes over time, either through nourishing supplements or other sources.
Examples of Coenzymes
What exactly are coenzymes? Here are a few common examples.
The majority of coenzymes your body will use are either vitamins or derived from vitamins themselves. This is one of the reasons why vitamin intake is so important for holistic bodily health, and it’s why many adults need to take regular supplements: their diets don’t contain all of the vitamins and minerals they need for coenzyme requirements and for other bodily functions.
Your body can produce certain coenzymes itself when it gains various water-soluble vitamins, which include vitamin C and all B complex vitamins. When your body has enough of these vitamin types, it can produce nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide or NAD and coenzyme A.
The former is particularly important as it helps cells transform from one variation to another. More specifically, NAD assists with the transference of electrons (which, in turn, helps to determine what element a molecule really is).
Meanwhile, coenzyme A is derived from vitamin B5. It’s one of the key building blocks responsible for helping your body make fatty acids within cellular organelles, which is important so your cells can make their protective walls. Furthermore, coenzyme A is crucial since it assists yourselves in producing ATP: the fundamental unit of energy used throughout your body.
You can also find coenzymes in non-vitamin forms. These usually help chemicals transfer from enzymes to cells. Some of these non-vitamin coenzymes can assist with your metabolic rates, blood clotting, and other vital bodily functions. Most non-vitamin coenzymes are made from nucleotides, including uracil, guanine, and inosine.
For example, the aforementioned ATP (short for adenosine triphosphate) is a non-vitamin coenzyme. This unit of energy can transport the energy necessary to create chemical reactions throughout the cells in your body. Without ATP, you couldn’t, for instance, contract your muscles or even beat your heart.
Where Can You Find Coenzymes?
As mentioned, there are multiple places you can find coenzymes. Some will need to be replaced regularly, which is why adults must take vitamins and minerals in supplement form since most Americans don’t get everything they need from food sources alone.
You can get lots of the vitamins and minerals you need so long as you eat a properly nutrient-rich diet.
Here are some example foods you should incorporate into your meals if you aren’t already:
- Eat low-fat dairy, broccoli, leafy greens, and sardines if you want to boost calcium intake
- Eat lots of carrots, milk, eggs, sweet potatoes, and fruits like cantaloupe to get plenty of vitamin A
- Most folks already know you can eat citrus fruits like oranges and lemons to get vitamin C. But you can also eat other fruits like strawberries, kiwi, and even red and green bell peppers for the same benefits
- Try eating avocados, dark leafy greens, seeds, nuts, and whole-grain foods to make sure your body gets enough vitamin E
You can also find various supplements that include coenzymes for the benefits described above. For example, ASYSTEM’s Superhuman Supplements include coenzyme Q10: one of the most important coenzymes in your body.
This particular coenzyme is found in every cell, including your liver, heart, pancreas, and kidneys. While it’s important for regular organ function, it’s also crucial to help your cells produce and transport energy throughout the body.
It even has an extra benefit: as an antioxidant, it can protect various cells from free radical damage, which occurs when unstable molecules go around the body trying to mooch electrons off healthy cells, which can result in cellular damage.
In addition to Coenzyme Q10, our Superhuman Supplements System also contains other energy-improving, holistic health-boosting ingredients including S7™ to improve the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscle during workouts or physical activity, KSM66® Ashwagandha to help with your body’s ability to manage stress, DHEA to serve as a precursor hormone for other important hormone productions in your body, and Omega 3 Fish Oil to support both cognitive function and skin health.
Of course, even your environment can help your body produce the vitamins necessary for the production or maintenance of certain coenzymes. One easy example is vitamin D, which is produced when your skin is exposed to sufficient sunlight.
By doing this, your body can produce various coenzyme types and maintain holistic health for longer. This is one of the reasons why spending time outside is so healthy, particularly for those in northern latitudes.
Ultimately, coenzymes are absolutely critical for bodily health and none of us would be alive without them. That's why it's important to always maintain a balanced and healthy diet, and to make sure that you take holistic and helpful supplements if you need a little extra help getting the vitamins you need for coenzyme production.