Fertility supplements are a hot topic, and the information out there can be confusing. Should you supplement? If so, what should you take? And how do you sort the facts from the myths when trying to decide? Today we’ll look at one supplement that fertility specialists are increasingly recommending: Coenzyme Q10.
What is CoQ10?
Coenzyme Q10, commonly known as CoQ10, is a vitamin-like nutrient present in nearly every cell of your body. It’s concentrated in the mitochondria of your cells — the power station that produces energy and powers biochemical reactions — and your body uses it for maintenance and repairs along with growth. CoQ10 is also a powerful antioxidant, helping protect your cells from free radical damage and oxidative stress, and you need an adequate amount of CoQ10 for proper cell function.
Unlike most vitamins, your body naturally manufactures CoQ10, but your ability to produce it peaks by around age twenty and decreases as you age. You can also get CoQ10 from food sources, particularly organ meats (heart, liver, kidney), though most food sources (fatty fish, nuts, chicken or eggs, whole grains) provide only very small amounts.
Can CoQ10 Benefit Fertility?
A growing body of evidence suggests that CoQ10 supplementation may benefit fertility in both sexes. This may be due in part to its ability to combat free radicals and to its role in cellular energy production. Human eggs — which are themselves cells — contain more mitochondria than any other cell in the body, and ovulation is very energy-intensive. In addition, oxidative stress plays a role in both diminished ovarian reserve (poor quality eggs and/or smaller quantity of eggs). Research offers tantalizing evidence that CoQ10 may help protect eggs from damage.
Studies consistently find that supplementing with CoQ10 improves the quality of eggs and embryos. A 2018 study published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, for instance, found that participants (all female and preparing for IVF) using CoQ10 supplements had more positive results than the control group. They had more eggs retrieved. Their embryos were of higher quality. They had higher fertilization rates. And they had more successful embryo transfers.
CoQ10 may also benefit people with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). A (a study that looks at the results of a group of other studies) found that CoQ10 supplementation increased mature follicles and ovulation rate per cycle for participants with PCOS. This effect was not seen among participants with diminished ovarian reserve, but both groups had a significantly higher clinical pregnancy rate than the placebo group. The effect of CoQ10 on live birth and miscarriage rates was unclear, as not all studies included in the analysis offered this information.
CoQ10 and Male Fertility
The benefits of CoQ10 for fertility go beyond affecting egg quality and quantity; CoQ10 also appears to have an effect on sperm health.
Two different meta-analyses, one published in the journal, both found that supplementing with CoQ10 had a positive impact on sperm motility — that is, the sperm’s ability to move and make it through the female reproductive tract to the waiting egg — which is a key factor in male fertility. Research also suggests that CoQ10 may positively affect sperm shape and concentration, which are also important aspects of male fertility.
This may be due to CoQ10’s ability to protect against free radical damage, which can occur in all cells, including sperm. During the time it takes a sperm to fully mature (about three months), exposure to free radicals can cause various types of damage to sperm, from destroying the membrane surrounding it to damaging the DNA it carries. CoQ10, with its powerful antioxidant properties, negate this.
Supplementing with CoQ10: Safe Dosage, Risks, and More
Research into CoQ10 and fertility is fairly new, and recommendations on how much to take and for how long vary between providers, so talk to your fertility specialist about what’s best for you before adding a CoQ10 supplement to your diet. That said, here’s what you need to know about dosing, risks, and possible benefits beyond those already addressed.
Is it safe?
Yes. In studies, doses as high as 3,000 mg per day did not cause any serious adverse effects, though taking more than 1,200 mg/day did sometimes cause minor gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea.
How much should I take?
Studies have relied on doses from 60 mg per day to 600. Most providers recommend between 300 and 600 mg per day in divided doses. Talk to your provider about the right dosage for you.
Can I continue to take it after I’m pregnant?
While there is no evidence that CoQ10 is unsafe to take during pregnancy, it’s still regarded as “possibly safe” due to the current lack of studies on CoQ10 and pregnancy. Some providers recommend taking a low dose (120 mg) during pregnancy.
Can it cause a miscarriage?
There’s no evidence that CoQ10 can cause a miscarriage; in fact, low levels of CoQ10, rather than high ones, are associated with miscarriage.
What are the possible side effects?
CoQ10 is well-tolerated by most people, and side effects are not common at the dosage most generally recommended. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Does it have any other benefits?
Some research suggests that CoQ10 may
What else do I need to know?
CoQ10 is a fat-soluble substance, meaning it dissolves in fat rather than water. In practice, this means your body will absorb it better if you take it with food than on an empty stomach or with liquids only.
Coenzyme Q10 is safe and appears to be effective in improving the quality and, in some people, the number of eggs, along with higher-quality embryos. It also appears to improve the quality of sperm.