Parenthood is one of the most universally desired goals amongst adults; most people have life plans that include children. However, not all couples can easily conceive, with as many as one in six couples facing fertility issues.
While research is still in progress, some findings point towards the potential benefits of antioxidants, like CoQ10, for male fertility.
Infertility is defined as the incapacity to achieve pregnancy after a reasonable period (usually 6-12 months) of sexual intercourse without contraception. Infertility can have many causes. However, malnutrition, stress, and aging are the most well-documented root causes, which can cause the pregnancy to fail in numerous ways, for example:
- The ovulatory factor is present in 20% of infertility cases
- The tuboperitoneal factor is present in 30% of infertility cases
- Semen migration factor is present in 10% of infertility cases
- Male factor is present in 30% of infertility cases
- Some cases have a combination of these factors, while others will not have a definite diagnosis
Age and Infertility
Probably the most common cause of infertility is aging. One might initially assume that the decline in fertility with age could be attributable to the menopausal state in women.
However, increased infertility in older couples is attributable primarily to declines in fertility rates of both men and women rather than to absolute sterility in either of them.
Aging affects fertility is much greater for women, it is also a prevalent issue amongst aging men. However, only 1% of participants were shown not to have some decline in fertility as they aged, as reported by one study.
Stress and Infertility
Usually, in a healthy person, the effect stress has on your body is acute, short-term, and beneficial. However, chronic stress can have adverse health outcomes.
In response to either physical or emotional stress, your sympathetic nervous system floods your bloodstream with a hormone made by your adrenal glands called cortisol.
Cortisol is meant for short-term survival situations, activating the “fight-or-flight” stress response -- a natural mechanism that your body needs for otherwise dangerous situations. As a result, cortisol is a hormone dedicated to the overconsumption of body resources and the downregulation of the less fundamental body systems like the reproductive system.
When you are chronically stressed, the continued presence of cortisol can be tough on your body, damaging the blood vessels and lowering reproductive hormones. In addition, stress can also contribute to fat storage, overeating, insomnia, and other factors that negatively impact your ability to maintain optimal reproductive hormone levels.
Numerous studies have explored the psychological burden of infertility, and it is not difficult to understand the emotional impact of struggling to become pregnant. Psychological stress has been shown to increase oxidative stress in the body chronically.
Oxidative stress can also be chronic when it comes from the diet by malnutrition. This is important because oxidative stress is a major cause of male infertility and may negatively affect female infertility.
Oxidative stress occurs when molecules become oxidized, losing an electron. This happens due to normal body function and is one of the key components in aging.
However, when these oxidized substances are formed, they can be dangerous to the body, reacting with otherwise stable molecules and compromising the integrity of some cells. Antioxidants are a powerful way to combat this oxidative stress.
Antioxidants are compounds that tend to donate protons reducing the oxidized molecules back to their normal state before they dish out too much destruction. One of the most powerful antioxidants on the market is called CoQ10.
What is CoQ10
Coenzyme Q is a molecule naturally synthesized for many different organisms. While it can have several side-chain lengths in different organisms, the side chain is ten carbon molecules long in humans. This is why coenzyme Q is usually referred to as CoQ10.
Coenzyme Q is an important enzyme that can be found inside the inner mitochondrial membrane. This enzyme plays a vital role in the movement of electrons through the first few complexes of the electron transport chain.
Towards the end of the cellular respiration process, electron carrier molecules move electrons to the electron transport chain (ETC), a series of enzymes that use the electrons to create a charge differential across the inner membrane of the mitochondria. This charge differential facilitates ATP production, which is the molecule used for energy throughout the body.
ETC Complex II, Succinate Dehydrogenase, takes the energized electrons from FADH2 using iron and passes it along to Coenzyme Q, ubiquinone, changing it to ubiquinol.
A similar reaction happens at ETC Complex I to take energized electrons from NADH. The ubiquinol then moves along inside the inner mitochondrial membrane to transfer the energized electrons to ETC Complex III, which packages them up in cytochrome C.
Cytochrome C brings the energized electrons to ETC Complex IV through the intermembrane space, attracting the protons. These protons then flow across the membrane, establishing a concentration gradient that ATP synthase uses to make ATP.
ATP is essentially the body’s energy currency and is responsible for most reactions in the body.
What Are the Health Benefits of CoQ10
There are plenty of health benefits for CoQ10, which includes:
Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
Many studies have pointed out that low CoQ10, particularly in cardiac tissue, is present in people who experience heart attacks. In addition, the severity of the heart attack has been shown to increase as the concentration of CoQ10 decreases.
However, statins have been shown to deplete CoQ10 stores extrapolating cardiovascular problems in one area while alleviating another. All in all, the importance of CoQ10 for heart health cannot be understated.
Changes in Energy Levels
Since CoQ10 is deeply involved with the energy-producing mechanism, it should be no surprise that having more can help boost your energy production throughout the day. In addition, supplementation with CoQ10 has been shown to have many health benefits, including improved energy levels.
Battles Fatigue and Depression
CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant; In the electron transport chain, it is specifically used to reduce iron molecules time and time again to transport those electrons to ETC Complex III. However, these antioxidant powers can be leveraged in other places across the body as well.
For instance, one study found that patients who received 500 mg of CoQ0 per day experienced fewer symptoms of fatigue and depression compared to the placebo group. This is likely because depression has high inflammatory and oxidant effects on the body and lowers the level of CoQ10, as determined by another study.
Reduced Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
In a study published in Antioxidants and Redox Signaling Journal, patients taking 300 mg of CoQ10 daily for 40 days claimed to experience reduced pain, fatigue, morning tiredness, and joint tenderness.
Reduces the Risk of Migraines
One study compared a placebo group to a group taking 100 mg of CoQ10 three times daily. They found a 33% reduction of attack frequency in those taking the CoQ10 supplement.
What Does This Mean for Fertility?
As discussed earlier diseased states and oxidative stress are major causes of male infertility. Taking advantage of the various health benefits of CoQ10 can have potential benefits for fertility.
One of the main mechanisms hypothesized for CoQ10 to possibly play a role in restoring male fertility is its powerful antioxidant qualities.
In a study published in the Journal of Urology, men with unexplained infertility were given 200 mg of CoQ10 for 26 weeks versus placebo. The CoQ10 group experienced improvements in sperm motility, sperm count, and the size and shape of the sperm.
While this study did not look at the pregnancy rates of the experimental group, the factors that were shown to increase due to CoQ10 supplementation -- sperm motility, sperm count, and the size and shape of the sperm -- have been associated with pregnancy in other studies.
However, meta-analyses of the literature have yet to show a direct correlation between CoQ10 and pregnancy rates. CoQ10 also has a reasonable impact on female fertility as well.
CoQ10 has been shown to protect against oxidative stress-induced aging of the ovaries, restore the function of the mitochondria in the ovaries, and increase the ovarian response and embryo quality of women with a decreased ovarian reserve.
The Bottom Line
Infertility can have many causes, but malnutrition, stress, and aging are the most well-documented, manageable root causes. CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant found in the electron transport chain of the mitochondria that has shown some benefits for both male and female fertility.
While there has been no direct correlation between CoQ10 and pregnancy, CoQ10 does increase factors associated with pregnancy.
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