Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Why Reproductive Health Experts Use CoQ10 to Support Egg Health and Sperm Health
Reproductive health specialists have been recommending coenzyme Q10 – or CoQ10 in short – to both men and women on the TTC journey for over a decade. But how does CoQ10 work? And what are the mechanisms of CoQ10 in supporting reproductive health? It has to do with its role in cellular energy production and antioxidant protection.
What is CoQ10?
CoQ10 is a coenzyme that acts as a catalyst in the process that converts carbohydrates into the form of energy our cells can use. CoQ10 is ubiquitous, found in every cell in the body, but most abundant in organs with high metabolic need for energy, such as the heart, liver and muscles.
CoQ10 is critical for cellular energy production
CoQ10 is a critical component of the electron transport chain within the mitochondria. Mitochondria is the energy factory within our cells – including eggs and sperm – that produces ATP, units of energy necessary for cells to develop and function properly. Mitochondria uses carbohydrates to generate ATP, which delivers a vast majority of energy that cells require.
Mitochondria needs CoQ10 to perform this energy production. By cycling through its 3 forms – the fully oxidized form (ubiquinone), intermediate form (semiquinone) and fully reduced, active form (ubiquinol) – CoQ10 moves electron from molecule to molecule, essentially facilitating the mitochondrial produce ATP. Here's more on the difference between ubiquinone and ubiquinol forms of CoQ10.
As an antioxidant, CoQ10 protects cellular structures
Aside from its indispensable role in the production of cellular energy, CoQ10 also acts as an antioxidant. The same conversion between its 3 states, essential in the production of ATP, protects lipids in the cellular membrane from oxidation. As an antioxidant, CoQ10 also inhibits oxidative damage of all-important DNA.
In addition to itself acting as a powerful antioxidant, CoQ10 is involved in regeneration of other antioxidants, like Vitamin E and Vitamin C. They, in turn, perform their own role as antioxidants, protecting cellular structures and DNA from oxidative stress.
Why is CoQ10 important for reproductive health?
Studies have suggested that CoQ10 supports both men and women’s reproductive health*. Scientists think that this benefit is directly related to the antioxidant and energy-production functions of CoQ10.
One example of this intense energy need is meiosis – a special type of cell division that creates eggs and sperm, where the original cell with 2 sets of chromosomes splits into multiple reproductive cells with just 1 set of chromosome each. To form chromosomally healthy egg or sperm, this intricate process requires cellular energy to physically package the DNA, line up the chromosomes then pull them apart correctly.
Sperm also needs a lot of energy in order to move toward the egg once in the female reproductive tract. To supply this necessary energy, the part of the sperm’s tail closer to the head has a number of mitochondria arranged around it – and CoQ10 plays a supporting role here in ATP production, just like in any other cell.
CoQ10’s antioxidant role extends to egg and sperm health as well, protecting them physically and genetically from oxidative damage that can accumulate as we age.
CoQ10 levels decline with age
CoQ10 levels appear to decline as we age. Though some studies reported no link between age and plasma CoQ10 levels, others found that CoQ10 levels in many organs peak by age 20, followed by a gradual decline, coupled with about a 10% slowing of ATP production in the mitochondria every decade. It’s unclear why CoQ10 levels decline with age, though hypotheses include the age-related decline in CoQ10 production in the body, as well as an acceleration in its degradation.
Doctors specializing in reproductive health have observed a parallel decline in egg quality and chromosomal integrity among older women. This is why they recommend CoQ10 supplementation especially to women after 35 to support egg health. The same principle applies to the male side, although men tend to maintain relatively consistent levels of reproductive health into their later years, compared to women.
The takeaway on CoQ10 and reproductive health
- Healthy levels of CoQ10 may help support egg and sperm health on two fronts: supporting cellular energy production and providing antioxidant protection.
- CoQ10’s reproductive health support may be particularly important for women over 35, but the benefit applies to both men and women.
- To provide support throughout the months-long maturation process of egg and sperm, it may be a good idea to take CoQ10 for 2-3 months.
- If you take a CoQ10 supplement, follow your doctor’s recommendation on dosage. In general, when you take the fully reduced form (ubiquinol), you don’t need to take as much CoQ10 as you would when you take the oxidized form (ubiquinone).
- Because CoQ10’s absorption mechanism is similar to that of fat-soluble vitamins, it may be best to take CoQ10 with a meal that includes some fat. Scientists have postulated that absorption may be higher when it’s taken with a meal.
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