Let’s go back to high school biology real quick…
Do you remember the mitochondria? Better known as the “POWERHOUSE” of the cell. This was drilled into our memories and for good reason. The mitochondria is responsible for the cell’s energy production. In regards to fertility, eggs have 10x MORE mitochondria than any other cell in the body. This is over 15,000 each meaning mitochondria play a huge role in egg production. Makes sense when you think of how much energy is needed to create human life!
So how does Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) fit into this? CoQ10 is a lipid soluble coenzyme with many functions. It acts as an antioxidant by inhibiting DNA oxidation. It functions as a membrane stabilizer and it is an essential component in the Electron Transport Chain (ETC). The ETC is located in the mitochondrial membrane and is the driving force in making energy for cells. Therefore, CoQ10 plays a huge role in aiding energy production within the mitochondrial walls.
As mentioned before, mitochondria are the most abundant organelles in oocytes and early embryos (we need adequate CoQ10 levels to account for this abundance!). Egg production needs copious amounts of energy to not only prepare for ovulation but also for further development. Mitochondrial dysfunction has been observed around the same time female fertility starts declining. Studies have shown that impaired mitochondrial function due to suboptimal Coq10 availability is linked to age-associated infertility.
However, regardless of age, there are still women with higher odds of anovulation, fewer oocytes, and overall poor ovarian responses. One study was conducted treating this specific group of women with CoQ10 supplementation. The results showed that the women had a significant increase in fertilization rate and the number of quality embryos. It also lowered the rate of missed ovulation cycles. Overall, pregnancy and live birth rates were higher in the group of women supplemented with CoQ10 in comparison to the control group.
Another study focused on the potential benefits of CoQ10 supplementation and Pre-eclampsia (PE) Risk. PE is very prevalent and the leading cause of maternal mortality. It is also associated with an increase in perinatal mortality due to an increased chance of preterm labor. It occurs in about 7% of all pregnancies but the exact cause is not fully understood. Pregnant women diagnosed with PE have lower plasma levels of Coq10 in comparison to healthy pregnant women. The study found that CoQ10 supplementation after 20 weeks of pregnancy led to a reduced rate of PE in at risk women. As this supplementation is safe and well tolerated, it could be vital in protecting women and their offspring.
But it’s not always just about the women! CoQ10 supplementation has beneficial effects on men and their sperm as well. CoQ10 plays the same role in the mitochondria for energy metabolism in men. Infertile men have been found to have reduced plasma levels of CoQ10 in sperm cells. The reduced form of CoQ10, ubiquinal, plays an protective antioxidant role in sperm. Studies found that consistent supplementation for 6 to 12 months increased CoQ10 levels and improved semen parameters such as concentration and motility. Although the improvements were clinically modest, CoQ10 could still be beneficial as it acts as an antioxidant.
Overall, CoQ10 supplementation pre-conception and after conception is benefiical for both men and women. Multiple studies have proven it’s affect promoting healthy reproductive function. The bioavailability of CoQ10 from food is very low but should still be considered. Supplements should be taken a few months before wanting to conceive for best results. Consult with a fertility dietitian for recommendations on the ideal dosage for you and/or your partner!
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