CoQ10 and Fertility
Lately, Coenzyme Q 10 has been touted as a treatment for fertility and many women are trying to use the supplement in order to enhance their fertility. Coenzyme Q 10 can be found as an over the counter oral supplement and is a natural supplement that is necessary for normal cellular functioning. It is a molecule that provides energy for the mitochondria of the cells. The mitochondria are organelles within the cells that provide energy for the entire cell.
The question is, does coenzyme Q10 truly enhance fertility? People who believe that this supplement enhances fertility are using it based on a single research study out of Canada. In the study, mice were given Coenzyme Q 10 and were found to have an improvement in their fertility.
Researchers looked at mice receiving medications to stimulate their ovaries. When mice were also given Coenzyme Q 10 along with fertility treatments, they had more follicles and better eggs when compared to those not given Coenzyme Q 10. Mice who were older seemed to produce eggs that were as functional and viable as eggs released by younger mice.
The study seems to indicate that taking Coenzyme Q 10 as a supplement might provide a benefit to those women who had problems with having enough quality eggs. Unfortunately, the study was just done on mice and was never repeated. Whether or not Coenzyme Q 10 affects fertility in human women has not been studied and is uncertain.
Egg Quality and Coenzyme Q 10
The truth of the matter is that as a woman ages, her chances of getting pregnant and carrying the pregnancy to term is decreased, usually because their ovulation rate decreases and the quality of their eggs are worse. The change toward decreased fertility seems to begin at around age 30. While ovulations decrease after this time, the most important issue regarding fertility in the aging population is not the number of ovulations a woman has but the quality of the eggs she produces.
The problem with any study looking at the taking of Coenzyme Q 10 and egg quality is that it is difficult to assess what a quality egg should look like. One obvious way of assessing egg quality is to look at the number of chromosomes in the egg. If there are exactly 23 chromosomes in the egg, it is probably a quality egg. There are, however, aspects of egg quality that cannot be as easily studied as the chromosomal status of the egg.
Under normal circumstances, the egg in humans is one of the largest cells produced by the body. It makes half the chromosomes of a regular diploid cell and requires the other half of the chromosomes from the sperm to make a fertilized egg that goes on to becoming an embryo and finally, a child.
A great deal of energy is required to make the egg and to have it adequately fertilized. This energy comes from the mitochondria that are ultimately enhanced by the addition of Coenzyme Q 10. For this reason alone, it makes sense that Coenzyme Q 10 might enhance the energy and quality of the eggs in humans even though this has not been studied in humans.
We know that human eggs have more mitochondria inside them and more mitochondrial DNA inside them when compared to all other cells of the body. Rationally, this means that, if Coenzyme Q 10 truly enhances mitochondrial function, it should positively affect energy production and therefore the quality of the eggs.
So what do the mitochondria have to do with fertility? There is the theory that women who make older eggs have mitochondrial counts that are less than the mitochondrial counts in younger women. Perhaps this causes a secondary decrease in the quality of the cells.
Cells with less energy (mitochondria) are of a lesser quality than cells with lots of energy. If Coenzyme Q 10 enhances the energy production in the cells, it could positively affect the quality of the eggs and enhance fertility. Remember, this is all theoretical and the studies to show that this is definitely the case haven’t been performed yet.
So what exactly is Coenzyme Q 10?
Coenzyme Q 10 is also called ubiquinone. It isn’t exactly a vitamin but is similar to vitamins and is found in most of the cells of the body. Coenzyme Q 10 is an antioxidant. Antioxidants work by inhibiting the oxidation and degradation of other molecules in the body. Oxidation produces oxygen free radicals that can damage the DNA inside the cells and can ultimately cause cell death if the damage is bad enough.
Coenzyme Q 10 isn’t considered to be a vitamin because, unlike true vitamins, the body’s cells make coenzyme Q 10 already and it isn’t necessary to take it as a supplement in order to have the molecule in the body. The real question is, of course, whether taking extra Coenzyme Q 10 actually translates to better cell energy and, more particularly, does it translate to better quality eggs in women?
Coenzyme Q 10 is made in the mitochondria of cells and is part of the electron transport chain inside the mitochondria that generate ATP, which is the actual “energy molecule” inside the body. ATP provides the fuel necessary to do almost all the cellular functions that require an energy source. The question is, does Coenzyme Q 10 increase ATP levels so that the eggs of the body work better? Again, the research indicating that it does this in human eggs has not been performed.
If you believe that Coenzyme Q 10 actually enhances egg quality, you need to take in about three to six milligrams of the supplement per day. Most of this comes from eating meat products. The recommended dose of Coenzyme Q 10 that you should take in order to insure that enough of the supplement reaches the cells is much higher than that—in the range of 50 to 600 milligrams per day, given in divided doses throughout the day.
As you can see, this is a relatively wide range of dosing. It is believed that the dose of Coenzyme Q 10 depends on what you are trying to use it for. The research as to how much Coenzyme Q 10 you should take for fertility enhancement has not been done; however, for most conditions, experts recommend doses in the range of 100 milligrams per day and 300 milligrams per day. You can probably safely consume about 1200 mg per day and still not have any adverse effect.
The next question is whether or not Coenzyme Q 10 affects male fertility as well. The research on this has not been done but, in many ways, it makes sense. Just as energy is required for egg production, men need energy to make each and every one of the sperm they make. Men taking the supplement may be able to enhance the quality of their sperm so that the sperm have more energy and therefore have better motility and ability to fertilize the egg.
So, the bottom line is that Coenzyme Q 10 will not hurt you in the appropriate dosing and may enhance your egg or sperm quality by improving the energy of these cells. More research is required, however, to show that this is true in humans.
- Fertility Treatment Fads and the Internet. http://advancedfertility.com/blog/coenzyme-q10-and-fertility/. Accessed 6/6/16.
- Vitamins for Fertility and Healthy Pregnancy. https://www.shadygrovefertility.com/blog/fertility-health/vitamins-for-fertility-and-healthy-pregnancy/. Accessed 6/6/16.