CoQ10, or Co-enzyme Q 10, a compound normally produced in the body, decreases in production as people age and in some medical conditions. CoQ10 is currently getting press in the fertility world as a way to improve fertility in both men and women. Interest has focused mainly on older women or women with poor egg quality. CoQ10 may also help improve sperm count, but more studies are needed, the Mayo Clinic states. Do not take CoQ10 supplements without your doctor’s approval, as the supplement has side effects and can interact with some prescription medications.
CoQ10 is found in the mitochondria, the part of the cell that produces energy, and plays a part in producing ATP, the cell’s main energy source. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, human eggs depend on mitochondria as their only source of energy. The mitochondria in eggs deteriorate as women age, resulting in decreased energy production. Since production of a mature egg and normal early embryo development require large amounts of energy, chromosomal abnormalities and poor egg quality increase as women age. In sperm, increasing CoQ10 may improve sperm motility, which would increase fertility rates, the University of Maryland Medical Center states. CoQ10 also acts as an antioxidant, removing free radicals, substances that can damage cells.
Male Fertility Studies
A study conducted by researchers from the Polytechnic University of Marche reported on the use of CoQ10 in men with low sperm counts and motility due to idiopathic infertility in the May 2009 “Fertility and Sterility.” The study found a direct correlation between the two parameters and the concentration of CoQ10 in the seminal fluid, lead author Giancarlo Balercia, M.D., stated. Men treated with 200 mg of CoQ10 for six months had an increase in levels of the compound in semen as well as increased sperm motility. Men with the lowest initial CoQ10 levels and worst sperm motility showed the greatest improvement.
Female Fertility Studies
A study reported in the September 2009 issue of “Fertility and Sterility” by researchers from the Toronto Centre for Advanced Reproductive Technology looked at the role of CoQ10 in improving egg quality in female mice. Old mice were given CoQ10, resveratrol or R-alpha lipoic acid, the latter two substances known to benefit mitochondria. Young mice received placebo. Lead author Eliezer Burstein, M.D., a Reproductive Endocrinology Fellow, concluded that CoQ10 supplementation increased the number of eggs ovulated as well as mitochondrial function only in the old mice given CoQ10.
Research data on the benefits of CoQ10 in treating infertility are quite limited. In men, CoQ10 has been tested only in subjects with idiopathic sperm problems, or decreased sperm count and motility from unknown cause. Decreased sperm count and motility result from a number of causes which may not be helped by this treatment. In women, the only study that showed benefit so far was an animal study; animal study results may not be borne out in humans. The Toronto Centre for Advanced Reproductive Technology along with Ferring Pharmaceuticals sponsored a human study of 100 women ages 38 to 43 that was unfortunately terminated due to low recruitment numbers.