Idebenone is a synthetic, organic compound that forms part of the quinone family. It was initially produced to treat cognitive conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Further investigations have indicated that idebenone may be beneficial in the treatment of various neuromuscular diseases. Idebenone possesses characteristics that enhance mood and protect the heart. Due to its similarities to Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), idebenone is used as an ingredient in anti-aging and anti-wrinkle skin products.
Idebenone is a synthetic analog of ubiquinone, otherwise known as Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 appears naturally in the body, whereas idebenone has to be produced via a chemical route. Although they have many similarities, idebenone has certain properties that are superior to CoQ10. For example, idebenone dissolves in water, while CoQ10 is insoluble, making idebenone a more versatile ingredient. Also, the molecule size of idebenone is 60% smaller then CoQ10, ensuring that idebenone penetrates more easily in to the skin. In addition, idebenone’s properties and cellular distribution differ from CoQ10, making idebenone more effective at protecting and healing cells that have been damaged by irregular blood flow.
When it comes to acting as an antioxidant, some studies have suggested that idebenone is stronger than CoQ10. This stems from idebenone’s ability to inhibit the action of free radicals in low oxygen environments. This contrasts with the tendency of CoQ10 to generate harmful free radicals when oxygen levels drop, for example when an individual is experiencing a stroke, heart attack, or circulatory problems.
Like its counterpart CoQ10, topical application of idebenone is highly effective in reducing wrinkles and fine lines, improving skin tone and texture, and healing photodamage. For this reason, it is included as an ingredient in premium anti-aging skin creams, serums, and lotions. Idebenone improves the youthful appearance of skin by protecting it against the harmful effects of free radicals and stimulating the production of new skin cells.
Idebenone is classified as a nutritional supplement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Idebenone is available as an oral supplement on its own or in combination with other complementary nutrients.
Although idebenone was initially produced as a drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, clinical trials have given a mixed picture in terms of idebenone’s success in this area. As a result, idebenone is no longer used as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease in some countries, such as Japan. However, idebenone is still given to Alzheimer’s patients in some European countries.
Clinical trials have revealed that idebenone is a useful treatment for Friedreich's ataxia, which is a rare, hereditary condition. The cause of Friedreich's ataxia is a lack of a protein known as frataxin. This protein plays a key role in the regulation of iron in the blood. A lack of frataxin leads to enlargement of the heart (cardiac hypertrophy), oxidative damage to the cells, and neurological issues. Idebenone protects the heart from damage caused by excessive levels of iron in the blood. It may also enhance neurological function, although the clinical tests in this area have been less conclusive.
Idebenone is also effective in the treatment of Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (also known as Leber’s disease). This hereditary condition usually affects both eyes and can lead to a loss of vision.
When taken orally, idebenone stimulates the production of serotonin in the brain, leading to a feeling of improved wellbeing and a more regular sleep pattern. Accordingly, oral supplements of idebenone can be taken as mood enhancers. This is particularly useful for individuals who do not consume sufficient levels of L-tryptophan in their diets.
Because it has been extensively tested in drug trials for Alzheimer’s disease, Friedreich's ataxia, Leber’s disease, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, idebenone is classified as safe for use by most people. However, a few individuals may experience side effects, including stomach problems, nausea, anxiety, and insomnia when taking idebenone. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking idebenone as a supplement because its effects during pregnancy and breastfeeding have not been rigorously tested.