There has been a recent surge in the interest in using Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ-10) supplementation to aid in both female and male infertility treatments. Let’s look at what is currently known.
Here are some facts about Coenzyme Q-10:
- It is a naturally occurring compound found in every cell within the human body.
- CoQ-10, also known as ubiquinone, is a fat-soluble compound that is produced by the body and can also be consumed in the diet.
- The major dietary sources of CoQ-10 include oily fish, organ meats (i.e. liver) soybean and canola oils, nuts and whole grains.
Coenzyme Q-10 plays a key role in producing energy in the mitochondria, the cell’s energy producing center. Coenzyme Q-10 has been reported to increase cellular energy production, act as an antioxidant and bolster the immune system. Clinical studies suggest that CoQ-10 supplements may be helpful for the following conditions:
- Heart failure (CHF)
- Breast cancer
- Neurologic conditions such as Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Muscular Dystrophy
Ok, so that is the background information. But how does CoQ-10 work to improve male or female infertility?
CoQ-10 and male fertility
In men, CoQ-10 may increase available energy to the sperm and act as an antioxidant protecting the sperm from oxidative stress. CoQ-10 is present in seminal fluid and appears to be positively correlated with sperm count and motility.
In reviewing the available research, infertile men taking between 200-300 mg daily of a CoQ-10 supplement have shown increased sperm motility, sperm count and sperm function in the laboratory after 6 months of treatment. Unfortunately, no study has yet to show a significant improvement in pregnancy rates at the doses studied.
CoQ-10 and female fertility
As women age, it is well established that ovarian response and pregnancy rates are reduced while the rate of chromosomal abnormalities in the embryos increase. With increasing age, the mitochondria appear to produce less energy. This may lead to changes in egg maturation, embryo growth and implantation.
Studies on CoQ-10 and female fertility have shown the following results:
- A preliminary study giving CoQ-10 to mice showed increased egg numbers and mitochondrial activity.
- Supplementation of bovine embryos with CoQ-10 was shown to improve embryo development.
- A human study using 300 mg of CoQ-10 twice daily was discontinued due to low enrollment.
To date, there are no human studies showing improvement in egg production, egg quality or pregnancy rates in women taking CoQ-10 supplements.
My take on CoQ-10 and infertility is the following:
- There is no evidence to show that taking CoQ-10 improves female fertility. Further study is needed.
- There is evidence that CoQ-10 may increase sperm motility and count that may lead to improved pregnancy rates (unproven at this time). For men with unexplained low sperm count and/or motility, it seems reasonable to consider the use of a CoQ-10 supplement. Men taking “statin” medications should ask their doctor about the use of supplemental CoQ-10.
- The best sources of CoQ-10 are dietary.
In my next blog post, I will discuss ways to get CoQ-10 in your diet.
Dr. Carmelo Sgarlata is a leading Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility specialist at the Reproductive Science Center of the San Francisco Bay Area. With over 25 years of experience and well over 1,000 babies born through his guidance, Dr. Sgarlata has become well known in the community where he lives and practices. His areas of special interest include Operative Laparoscopy and Hysteroscopy, Ovulation disorders including diminished ovarian reserve and recurrent pregnancy loss. Dr. Sgarlata is currently completing a 2-year fellowship in Integrative Medicine through the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.