What to Know About PQQ Supplements

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on May 12, 2023
4 min read

PQQ supplements are often used for energy, memory, enhanced focus, and overall brain health. However, researchers don’t know very much about how these supplements affect your health.

PQQ is pyrroloquinoline quinone. It is sometimes called methoxatin, pyrroloquinoline quinone disodium salt, and a longevity vitamin. It is a compound made by bacteria and is found in fruits and vegetables.

PQQ in bacteria helps them digest alcohol and sugar, which makes energy. This energy helps them survive and grow. Animals and plants don’t use PQQ the same way that bacteria do, but it is a growth factor that helps plants and animals grow. It also seems to help them tolerate stress.

Plants absorb PQQ from the bacteria in the soil. They use it to grow, which is then found in fruits and vegetables. It naturally exists in lots of different foods, including:

It’s also often found in breast milk. This is probably because it is absorbed from the fruits and vegetables consumed and passed into milk.

Some people say that PQQ is an essential vitamin because at least one animal enzyme needs PQQ to make other compounds. Animals seem to need it for normal growth and development, but while you often have PQQ in your body, it’s unclear whether it's vital for people.

The science on PQQ is still young; most of the research has only been done in animal studies. While there are some human studies, it isn’t clear exactly how it can help your body. However, research shows that there may be some health benefits.

Antioxidant. When your body breaks down food into energy, it also makes free radicals. Normally your body can get rid of free radicals, but if there are too many, they can cause damage, which can lead to chronic diseases. Antioxidants fight free radicals.

PQQ is an antioxidant and based on research, it shows to be more powerful at fighting free radicals than vitamin C. Antioxidants work better together, so it’s unclear if taking PQQ alone as a supplement can help stop any diseases.

Mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondria are the power centers of your cells. Problems with your mitochondria can lead to heart problems, diabetes, and cancer. Animal data shows that PQQ helps to make more mitochondria, but there isn’t very much research in humans.

One study tested PQQ supplements in men who did aerobic exercise for 6 weeks. It increased mitochondria by affecting certain proteins during exercise. Another study showed that dietary PQQ raised mitochondria activity.

Anti-diabetes. Problems with mitochondria are part of what causes diabetes. Lifestyle choices like exercise, food, stress, and sleep affect mitochondrial health. Animal data shows that PQQ supplements fix mitochondrial problems from diabetes and make diabetic mice respond better to insulin. Yet, there isn’t any evidence that PQQ can help people with diabetes.

Inflammation. PQQ might lower inflammation by lowering the C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and other markers in your blood.

Nootropic. Substances that help memory, attention, and learning are sometimes called nootropics. Studies show that PQQ raises blood flow to the cerebral cortex. This is the part of your brain that helps with attention, thinking, and memory. This supplement also may also memory problems in older people.

Sleep and mood. PQQ might help with better and longer sleep. By easing fatigue, it might also help to improve moods.

While there is some research on PQQ, there isn’t enough evidence to know exactly whether any of these health benefits will help you.

Due to the lack of research, it’s not clear if PQQ has side effects. The way PQQ works is generally still not understood.

PQQ in food is different from PQQ supplements. These supplements are usually powders, which are made through a bacterial fermentation process. The maximum suggested dosage per day is 20 mg in adults, except for pregnant or breastfeeding women. The supplement has about 250 times more PQQ than what you would get from food. It’s unclear if these high amounts are beneficial.

In the few human studies on PQQ, there were no side effects for short-term use. There are no reports of allergies or toxicity.

Because there is so little research, scientists don’t fully understand what it does or how it works.

Some supplements can interact with medications and other supplements, but it’s not clear how or if PQQ supplements do. Before you take PQQ, make sure to talk to your doctor about whether it’s a good fit for you. Your doctor might also have other ideas about how to help your symptoms that have more evidence and safety information.

The best way to get PQQ is to eat fruits and vegetables, which are good for your overall health.