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Could Coenzyme Q10 benefit your fertility?

As a fertility dietitian I will always advocate for a "food first" approach. However, when it comes to fertility nutrition there are many nutrients that have been studied and positive benefits found in doses much higher than we can realistically achieve through diet alone, which is where a big benefit of supplementation comes in.


Amongst the many supplements often spoken about amongst those who are trying to conceive, CoQ10 is one of these. In this article I help you to understand the role of this nutrient in fertility, whether or not you would benefit from it, and how you can get more of it.



What is CoQ10?


CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant that plays a crucial role in cellular energy production in all cells- including that in a woman's eggs. It is found in the mitochondria, the energy-producing centers of cells, and is essential for converting food into energy. This energy is what supports our eggs to mature and develop for healthy ovulation, and ensures a viable egg is available for implantation, embryo development and implantation. CoQ10 can also help to protect cells from oxidative damage, which is one of the most important factors impacting negatively on egg and sperm health that we can address through diet.


Dietary Sources of CoQ10


Your body naturally produces its own coQ10 but the ability to do this gradually declines with age. Our ability to absorb the nutrient from food also often reduces with age due to changes in digestive health. You can increase your intake of CoQ10 through dietary sources, primarily protein-rich foods but also some vegetable and grain foods as well.


CoQ10 can be found in small amounts in various foods, including:

  • Organ meats: Heart, liver, and kidney

  • Fatty fish: Sardines, mackerel, and salmon

  • Vegetables: Spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower

  • Legumes: Peanuts and soybeans

  • Whole grains: Whole grains and wheat germ

Meeting your food group recommendations and including omega-3 rich oily fish and plenty of vegetables in the diet is a great starting point to improving your omega 3 intake. Check these basics by downloading my FREE fertility checklists here.



Research on CoQ10 and Fertility


Egg Quality and Quantity:

  • A study published in Fertility and Sterility found that CoQ10 supplementation improved ovarian response and embryo quality in women undergoing IVF (1).

  • Another study reported that women over 35 who took 600 mg of CoQ10 daily had a significant increase in both the quantity and quality of retrieved eggs compared to those who did not take the supplement (2).

  • CoQ10 is crucial for mitochondrial function, which plays a significant role in egg maturation and embryo development. Enhanced mitochondrial function improves energy production and reduces oxidative stress, promoting healthier eggs (3).


Sperm Health:

  • Research in the Journal of Urology showed that CoQ10 supplementation improved sperm motility and density in men with infertility issues (4).


I highly recommend having a supplement review with a fertility dietitian before commencing on any new supplements. With coQ10 specifically, there are many important things to consider including supplement timing, coQ10 type, and dosage in order to see the best possible results. Here are some key points on this:

  • With all things fertility nutrition related, start any supplementation at least three months before trying to conceive or starting fertility treatments. This allows sufficient time for CoQ10 (along with all diet and lifestyle interventions) to impact egg and sperm quality.

  • CoQ10 is generally well-tolerated, but some people may experience side effects like gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, and headaches. Like mentioned, I can support you with making sure your supplement regimen is safe and right for you.

  • The doses mentioned in the above studies are high and may not be necessary for you to see the best possible outcomes. Some studies have found benefit in lower doses too e.g. 300mg/ day so it's best to have a chat with a fertility specialist dietitian first (I can help you with this) and make sure that you only take coQ10 if you need it and in the most effective, low risk dose. Remember- more is not always better!


There is also not enough research at this point to determine the safety of CoQ10 during pregnancy so it's advisable to pause the supplement if actively trying to conceive while you are in the luteal phase of your cycle or post egg-collection.



Should you take CoQ10 supplements?


There are multiple pillars of fertility that we focus on when working to improve it through diet and lifestyle factors and its important to pinpoint which pillar is the priority focus for you. It's important to target your key area of concern and not get carried away focusing only on supplements for every aspect of fertility. However in saying this, there are some circumstances in which coQ10 is likely to be of benefit. Some of these being:


  • Women Over 35: Age-related decline in egg quality can be mitigated with CoQ10 supplementation.

  • Women with PCOS: CoQ10 can help improve ovarian function and egg quality.

  • Endometriosis: CoQ10 could support a reduction in inflammation and prolonged reproductive function in women with low AMH

  • Men with Sperm Issues: CoQ10 can improve sperm motility and density.

  • Couples Undergoing ART: Both partners could benefit from improved egg and sperm quality, increasing the chances of successful conception.


There is no point adding in supplements on top of a sub-par diet! Make sure to get your foundations ticked off first before adding in additional supplements e.g. a high quality multivitamin, baseline testing complete, meeting food group recommendations specific to fertility, and minimizing exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and harmful foods and drinks.


If you are wondering whether CoQ10 might be right for you then I am here to support you by creating a personalised nutrition and supplement plan backed 100% by research to help you conceive faster. You can learn more about working with me 1:1 here.


Keen to learn more about common fertility nutrition mistakes to avoid? Tune into my FREE webinar event on the top 5 fertility nutrition mistakes and what to do instead! PLUS! Enjoy my FREE 7-day fertility meal plan complete with recipes, meal and snack ideas, and a nutrition breakdown.


References

  1. Bentov Y, Esfandiari N, Burstein E, et al. The use of mitochondrial nutrients to improve the outcome of infertility treatment in older patients. Fertil Steril. 2010;93(1):272-275.

  2. Xu Y, Nisenblat V, Lu C, et al. Pretreatment with coenzyme Q10 improves ovarian response and embryo quality in low-prognosis young women with decreased ovarian reserve: a randomized controlled trial. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018;16(1):29.

  3. Agarwal A, Majzoub A, Roychoudhury S, et al. Oxidative stress, antioxidants, and sperm dysfunction. Andrologia. 2014;46(1):1-13.

  4. Nadjarzadeh A, Sadeghi MR, Vaziri ND, et al. Coenzyme Q10 improves seminal oxidative defense but does not affect on semen parameters in infertile men. Andrologia. 2014;46(2):177-183.

  5. Miles MV. The uptake and distribution of coenzyme Q10. Mitochondrion. 2007;7 Suppl:S72-S77.


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