Should You Take PQQ As A Nootropic?

Written by Andy Mobbs
featured image for article on PQQ or pyrroloquinoline quinone, a seneca ingredient

In this article, we’ve summarized the different studies on PQQ to find out if it’s really an effective nootropic. To give you an idea, here are some of the highlights we’ve uncovered in our research:

  • PQQ stimulates the function and production of new mitochondria which produce virtually all of our energy
  • PQQ is also a powerful antioxidant that protects us from oxidative stress
  • PQQ improves cognitive function, mood and sleep

But first, what is PQQ?

PQQ is a coenzyme. A coenzyme is an organic molecule that when combined with an enzyme helps that enzyme to work.

Enzymes catalyze reactions in the human body which means they increase the speed at which they happen. They can actually increase the speed by up to 100,000 times. And without them doing this, life would not be possible because all our chemical reactions would happen far too slowly to support what is needed to be alive.

PQQ has so far been found to be involved in over 20,000 different catalytic cycles (1), this is compared to vitamin C that is involved in just 4.

Where is PQQ found?

PQQ is formed by bacteria and is found in the soil where it is taken up into plants. We then absorb it from the plants we eat. Studies have found that fruit trees that are cultivated with hydroponics that include the bacteria rhizobacteria, which is known to be rich in PQQ, have a significantly increased height, flower number, fruit number, and fruit weight when compared to trees grown with rhizobacteria that have been genetically modified not to produce PQQ (2).

An interesting tidbit about PQQ’s discovery…

There are few nutrients that can claim as exciting circumstances for their discovery as PQQ! Here’s how it was discovered:

In 1999, NASA launched the space probe ‘Stardust’, with a mission to fly through space and collect space dust samples from the comet ‘Wild 2’ and the asteroid ‘5535 Annefrank’. It took 7 years for the probe to reach both of them. In 2006, a return capsule was sent back to earth for analysis (3).

Following the analysis, scientists found biological molecules in the dust that were very similar to PQQ. This led them to suggest that comets and asteroids brought space dust to the earth billions of years ago. This dust contained the original biological molecules that eventually went on to form all of the life we have on earth, and that PQQ was one of these original molecules!

scientific medical scheme about enzymes

What are the benefits of taking PQQ?

There have been a number of animal and human studies done on PQQ to date. And the results have been very promising! Here are notable PQQ benefits:

Increases mitochondrial function

PQQ is perhaps most active in its effects on mitochondria. There are on average between 2000 and 3000 mitochondria in each of our 20 trillion or so cells, and their primary role is to produce energy. However, they are involved in much more than just producing energy. They are also involved in producing cholesterol and steroid hormones, as well as the breaking down of proteins and the production of the body’s major extracellular antioxidant uric acid.

Studies in mice and rats have shown that when they are fed a diet deficient in PQQ, there is a reduction in the number of mitochondria and in the amount of energy that they produce (2, 4). Reduced mitochondrial function is related to just about every health problem we can suffer from including developmental disorders, heart disease, and cancers. Efficient mitochondrial function is also vital for proper cognitive function (5).

Further studies have shown that one of the main ways PQQ works in increasing mitochondrial function is by stimulating a gene known as PGC-1α (6). PGC-1α is the key controller of mitochondrial biogenesis, meaning when stimulated it causes the production of more mitochondria. PGC-1α also causes a reduction in the levels of free radicals and protects the mitochondria against toxins (7).

May help with longevity

The PGC-1α gene has also been associated with increased longevity (8). It may help to reduce neurodegeneration by both reducing and preventing the formation of the beta-amyloid proteins associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, and also by preventing the alpha-synuclein proteins that are associated with Parkinson’s Disease (9).

May help improve brain neuroplasticity

PQQ has also been shown to stimulate the production of the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) which stimulates the growth of new nerves and the regeneration of existing ones (10, 11). NGF is very important for improving brain neuroplasticity and learning.

PQQ has also protected neurons from death in experimental models of both stroke and spinal cord injury (12, 13). More specifically, PQQ has been shown to be able to protect the NMDA receptors from the inflammation caused by excessive glutamate stimulation as well as the neurotoxin peroxynitrite (14, 15). Healthy functioning of the NMDA receptors is vital for neuronal plasticity, learning, and memory (16).

It’s a powerful antioxidant

PQQ also acts as a strong antioxidant and has shown that it can protect liver and heart cells from oxidative stress (17, 18). It was also shown to protect heart cells from damage during ischemia, which is reduced blood flow to the heart that can be caused by heart disease or heart attacks (18). It was also found to be more effective than vitamin E and vitamin C in preventing oxidative damage to peritoneal cells (cells lining the abdomen) after administration of a number of different compounds known to cause inflammation and oxidative stress (19).

Whilst PQQ acts as an antioxidant on its own, it’s also able to stimulate the production of the body’s other endogenously produced antioxidants such as glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and catalase in the brain and central nervous system. These antioxidants allow the body to break down the potentially dangerous molecules superoxide and hydrogen peroxide into water, further enhancing its ability to protect neurons (14).

antioxidants and free radicals balance

May contribute to immunity, growth and development

PQQ also seems to play an important role in the health of our immune systems. Mice fed with a PQQ-deficient diet led to reduced production of IL2, an important immune system signaller which is needed for the proper production of T-cells during an immune response to a pathogen (20).

Diets deficient in PQQ also led to lower fertility, less neonatal survival, and lower growth rates in mice, indicating a further important role for PQQ in development (21).

Improved Mood and Sleep

A Japanese study used 17 subjects with a diagnosed sleep disorder and gave them 20mg of PQQ for 8 weeks. At the end of the 8-week period, they found that the subjects had significantly improved sleep and less fatigue. They also experienced less depression, anxiety, and pain, and had improved appetite.

Improved Attention

41 elderly subjects were given 20mg of PQQ per day for 12 weeks. At the end of the study period, the subjects scored higher on tests for attention and visual-spatial cognitive function. Visual-spatial tests look at how well people can judge where they are physically in the world from visual information and are commonly used to measure rates of age-related cognitive decline (22).

What are the benefits of combining PQQ and CoQ10?

There seems to be a synergy between PQQ and CoQ10. Both PQQ and CoQ10 have a big impact on the mitochondria. Specifically, CoQ10 is active in the electron transport chain which is the second phase of energy production in the mitochondria. It takes electrons from hydrogen atoms and then passes them down a special chain called the electron transport chain, so they can be safely converted into water.

Improved Cognitive Function

A study on 65 subjects between 50 and 70 who had forgetfulness (identified by a family member, colleague or acquaintance), tested the subjects with just PQQ, PQQ, and CoQ10 or a placebo for 24 weeks. The subjects received either 20mg of PQQ and 300mg of CoQ10 in the PQQ/CoQ10 group and 20mg of PQQ in the PQQ-only group.

At the end of the study period, they found both the PQQ group and the PQQ/CoQ10 group has significantly improved scores on all of the 5 cognitive tests that were used. These tests measured immediate memory, visual-spatial ability, language, attention, and delayed memory. They also found that scores for the PQQ/CoQ10 group were higher than the PQQ alone group (23).

A further study went on to try to find the mechanism that led to the improved cognitive function. Researchers concluded that PQQ was able to increase cerebral blood flow, increase oxygen saturation in the blood as well as oxygen utilization in the pre-frontal cortex area of the brain (24).

Oxygen use is a measure of how much the mitochondria are working, as they use oxygen to turn the electrons from the hydrogen atoms safely into water as was briefly mentioned above. So an increased oxygen utilization shows increased mitochondrial function.

With that being said, both CoQ10 and PQQ are included in our nootropic stack Seneca Nootropic. Each serving of Seneca contains 18 research-backed ingredients, including 100mg of CoQ10 and 10mg of PQQ.

Related article: What are nootropics?

What’s the best PQQ dosage?

There is currently no official recommended dosage for taking PQQ. But so far, human studies have used 20mg of PQQ daily.

What foods contain pyrroloquinoline quinone?

PQQ concentration is highest in fruit and vegetables and there is also a high concentration found in human breast milk.


Relatively speaking, we are still very early in our knowledge of PQQ because it has only recently been discovered, but taking PQQ supplements has a lot of potential benefits, including as a powerful nootropic. Hopefully, the future will bring more studies in humans that will allow us to further understand its role in human health.


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