The CoQ10 Fertility Link: Can It Improve Conceiving?

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The CoQ10 Fertility Link: Can It Improve the Odds of Conceiving?

All You Need to Know About the Supplement CoQ10 and Reproductive Health

Key Points

  • CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10) is a fat-soluble antioxidant found in the mitochondria (energy-producing powerhouses) of every cell.
  • CoQ10 supplements may help aspects of both male and female fertility, but the evidence is stronger for men.
  • For example, there is fairly convincing evidence that the antioxidant can help increase sperm quality.
  • The evidence for CoQ10 improving fertilization rates in women is weaker, and studies have not shown an increase in live births. However, more research is needed.
  • Ubiquinol is probably the best-absorbed source of CoQ10, which may be needed in dosages around 200-400mg to have therapeutic effects.
  • CoQ10 supplements are not a first line treatment for infertility; steps to improve diet and lifestyle should be taken first.

Fertility issues cause a lot of anguish, and there are no simple answers. So what should you do when you would like to conceive, but things aren’t going according to plan? 

Standard medical advice is for couples to seek help from a fertility specialist if they aren’t pregnant after a year, or after six months if the woman is over 35. But in the interim you’ll likely be looking for things to do that might make you conceive sooner. 

There are all kinds of diets, lifestyle changes, and supplements promoted online to improve fertility, including CoQ10. But with so many conflicting reports out there, how do you know if something really works?

In this article we’ll look specifically at the data on CoQ10, fertility, and reproductive health. 

What Is CoQ10? 

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a vitamin-like compound, also known as ubiquinone, that’s produced naturally in the body and is vital for energy production within the mitochondria of cells [1]. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize damaging free radicals and has anti-inflammatory actions [2].

These characteristics make CoQ10 an attractive supplement for helping to deal with various chronic diseases. CoQ10 supplementation has been linked with:

  • Reduced risk of death from any cause in heart failure patients [3]
  • Reduced frequency and duration of migraine (but not migraine severity) [4, 5]
  • Improved depression in people with bipolar disorder [6, 7]
  • Improvements in hormone levels, blood sugar control, and cholesterol in women with polycystic ovary syndrome [8]
  • Better blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome [9, 10]
  • Improvements in oxidative stress, blood sugar control, and inflammation in people with chronic kidney disease [11]
  • Less pain and fewer depressive symptoms in people with fibromyalgia [12]
  • Improved levels of liver enzymes and inflammation in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver [13]
  • Reduced inflammation and lower levels of certain potentially pro-cancerous proteins in women with breast cancer [14]

CoQ10’s Role in Reproductive Health 

Most of CoQ10’s benefits in the above diseases can be tracked to either its antioxidant or energy-producing functions and the same is likely the case when it comes to the role of CoQ10 in fertility.

For example, CoQ10 may help to counter the high levels of oxidation that can negatively affect sperm quality [15]. CoQ10 also helps support the health of the energy-producing mitochondria, which are present in higher levels in the human egg (oocyte) than in any other cell in the body [16].

CoQ10: Fertility Effects in Men

The results of high-quality studies have mostly shown that CoQ10 supplementation improves sperm quality, which comprises sperm concentration and motility (its ability to “swim”) [15, 17, 18, 19].

  • In one 2021 systematic review/meta-analysis, CoQ10 was associated not just with significant improvements in sperm concentration and motility, but also with an increase in testosterone level [17].
  • Research also suggests that CoQ10 is superior to the antioxidant selenium in its effects on semen quality [20].
  • Improvements in sperm begin after three to six months of treatment but disappear when supplementation is discontinued [15].
  • CoQ10 shows better results in men who have been diagnosed with asthenospermia (male infertility due to poor sperm motility) [21].
  • The dose of CoQ10 in clinical trials involving male fertility ranged from 200-400mg/day.

Despite the improvements in sperm quality with CoQ10, only one study examined how that impacts pregnancy rates. In this study, which involved supplementation with CoQ10, selenium, and carnitine, either alone or in combination, pregnancy rate was not improved [18].

Overall though, the CoQ10 fertility evidence for men is solid enough to warrant a trial with the supplement. Try taking a minimum dosage of 200mg per day for at least three months.

CoQ10: Fertility Effects In Women

Some studies indicate that CoQ10 may also benefit female fertility, but overall the results are unclear.

One small randomized controlled trial (RCT) involving 76 women undergoing IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatment found that CoQ10 supplementation significantly increased the chance of getting pregnant compared to controls [22]. Women receiving CoQ10 were nearly 2.5 times more likely to become pregnant after IVF than the control group.

A 2020 systematic review/meta analysis identified four more RCTs in which CoQ10 use was associated with an increase in clinical pregnancy compared to placebo or no treatment [23].

However, a systematic review/meta-analysis found that CoQ10 didn’t necessarily lead to more babies being born compared to placebo or no treatment. While CoQ10 supplementation may have helped women get pregnant (confirmed by hormonal testing and ultrasound), it wasn’t associated with significantly improved live birth rates, nor with lower miscarriage rates in women undergoing IVF treatment [24].

Nonetheless, CoQ10 is safe and promising enough for women who are concerned they may have fertility problems to take as a daily supplement. As with men, a dosage of 200-400mg per day for at least three months is about right. 

Fertility Fundamentals 

While CoQ10 is worth considering for fertility issues, it’s unlikely to help unless you have the fundamentals of a healthy diet and lifestyle already in place. As I discuss in a podcast episode about infertility with Dr Shahin Ghadir, being in good general health is an important prerequisite for tackling fertility problems.

In practical terms this means: 

  • Eating a healthy whole-food diet, such as a Paleo diet or Mediterranean-style diet: In one study, greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet was significantly associated with higher sperm concentration, total sperm count, and sperm motility [25].
  • Getting adequate sleep: Research has found that rates of fertilization are lower in women with low sleep quality undergoing assisted reproduction [26].
  • Managing stress: In one study, women with high saliva levels of alpha-amylase, an enzyme that is a marker of stress, took 29% longer to become pregnant compared to those with the lowest levels [27].
  • Considering the health of your microbiome: In addition to following all the steps above, taking a quality multispecies probiotic may be advisable. Though there’s no one “healthy microbiome” for better fertility, an overgrowth of bad microbes can interfere with fertilization, implantation, and embryo development. This may lead to failed fertility treatments and reduced live birth rate [28].

Choosing a CoQ10 Supplement

If you decide to try a CoQ10 supplement, you might want to look for one that contains the “ubiquinol” form, rather than straight ubiquinone.

A 2014 clinical trial involving 12 people found that while both ubiquinol and ubiquinone were able to significantly raise CoQ10 levels, ubiquinol was significantly more effective at increasing levels of CoQ10 in the blood, indicating better bioavailability [29].

However in a similar small study in 2018, two out of 10 people actually achieved higher blood CoQ10 levels with ubiquinone, showing there’s always individual variability in how people respond to taking supplements.

Whichever type of CoQ10 you take, it’s a good idea to take your supplement with a meal that contains fat. Because CoQ10 is fat-soluble you’ll achieve better absorption this way.

Are There Side Effects of CoQ10?

Since CoQ10 is produced naturally in the body, it’s usually well-tolerated. Its safety is what makes it an attractive supplement even in women who are trying to get pregnant or may even be in the early stages of pregnancy. 

If you do experience any rare side effects they tend to be mild, including stomach issues like indigestion or nausea. Taking with food is likely to help reduce these symptoms. Occasionally mild dizziness has also been reported [2].

Other Supplements That May Help Fertility

Other dietary supplements that could potentially help (once you have the fundamentals of a healthy lifestyle in place) include:

  • Zinc: Linked with healthier sperm and less time trying to conceive [30, 31].
  • B vitamins: In one study, a higher intake of vitamins B1, B2, B3 B6, and B12 was associated with lower risk of ovulatory infertility (when an egg is not released during the monthly cycle) [32]. B5 and B6 are also required in order for the body to make CoQ10.
  • Iron: One study over several years found that women who took iron supplements also had decreased risk of infertility [33].
  • Vitamin D: A 2018 study found low levels of vitamin D in women with infertility due to PCOS [34].

Diet should always be your first course of action when it comes to getting enough vitamins and minerals. However if you’re hoping to make a baby, a comprehensive multivitamin and mineral formula for both prospective parents can be good nutritional insurance. 

Women in particular should make sure any supplement they take contains 400 micrograms of folic acid, the amount recommended to minimize the risk of giving birth to a baby with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida [35].

CoQ10 Fertility Round-Up

CoQ10 may be of use for some aspects of both male and female infertility, though the research isn’t conclusive. It’s good to know CoQ10 is safe to try, however. Other aspects to consider if you’re trying for a baby are your underlying diet and lifestyle, including how much stress you’re under and the quality of your sleep. 

For more individual fertility support with a holistic focus, you can also request a consultation with a practitioner at the Ruscio Institute for Functional Medicine.

The Ruscio Institute has developed a range of high-quality formulations to help our patients and audience. If you’re interested in learning more about these products, please click here. Note that there are many other options available, and we encourage you to research which products may be right for you.

➕ References
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