New CoQ10 Uses: Male Fertility

A recent study looked at new CoQ10 uses for treating male infertility (1). Any progress in this area is quite welcome, given that medical science has a surprisingly poor understanding of male infertility. In fact, most cases infertility cannot be assigned to a specific root cause. This recent work suggests that CoQ 10 supplementation significantly improve sperm quality, sperm count, and serum testosterone. This article will cover what you need to know on how CoQ10 supplements improve measures of male fertility.

The Background: Stress-Free Sperm
On some level, it makes sense that sperm cells are not built to last. This is all too true: they have weak antioxidant enzyme systems and even weaker structures in place to guard DNA from breaking (2,3). Oxidative stress, or high levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), breakdown the quality of sperm DNA, reduce sperm motility, and chip away at the sperm cell membranes. In fact, an excellent predictive model of male fertility has been developed based on the antioxidant capacity of seminal fluid (4).

Antioxidants help to block sperm cell damage by intercepting ROS and limiting free radical damage. CoQ10 functions both as a signaling molecule and a lipid-based antioxidant (5). Over 12 years ago, CoQ10 content in seminal fluid was correlated with sperm count and motility (6). Later on, researchers found that sperm cells swimming around in culture showed enhanced motility in response to added CoQ10 (7). These findings set the stage for later efficacy studies testing CoQ10 use in treating infertility.

Clinical Study
The Safarinejad study is quite well-designed: placebo-controlled, double-blind, using over 200 infertile men (1). The treatment group was given 300 mg CoQ10 per day (this is on the high end of what is available in a pill), and then both groups were monitored after the treatment was stopped. While some placebo effect was observed in the total sperm count, significant increases were observed in sperm count and various measures of sperm health like motility, density and morphology. It is, however, important to note that while these numbers move in the right direction, they don't close the gap with healthy subjects. Additionally, serum testosterone was significantly increased during the treatment phase. And not surprisingly, the washout period shows a return to normal values. A similar study noted the same trends, but did not observe the same level of statistical significance (8).

Two key take home lessons here:
1. Sperm are delicate: sperm health and fertility are impacted by oxidative stress (4). Eating well, exercising, quitting smoking and drinking, reducing stress levels all contribute.

2. CoQ10 helps, but is not a cure: CoQ10 clearly has an special role as an antioxidant to promote sperm health (1), but it will probably only work as part of a larger fertility regimen.

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1. Safarinejad, MR. "Efficacy of coenzyme Q10 on semen parameters, sperm function and reproductive hormones in infertile men." J Urology. 182 (2009) 237-248.
2. Kefer, JC, Agarwal, A, Sabanegh, E. "Role of antioxidants in the treatment of male infertility." Int J Urology. 16 (2009) 449-457.
3. Mancini, A, De Marinis, L, Littarru, GP, Balerica, G. "An update of Coenzyme Q10 implications in male infertility: biochemical and therapeutic aspects." Biofactors 25 (2005) 165-74.
4. Sharma, RK, Pasqualotto, FF, Nelson, DR, et al. "The reactive oxidant species-total antioxidant capacity score is a new measure or oxidative stress to predict made infertility." Hum Reproduction 14 (1999) 2801-2807.
5. Bentinger, M, Brismar, K, Dallner, G. "The antioxidant role of coenzyme Q10." Mitochondrion 7S (2007) S41-S50.
6. Alleva, R, Scaramucci, A, Mantero, F, et al. "The protective role of uniquinol-10 against formation of lipid hydroperoxides in human seminal fluid." Mol Aspects Med. 18 (1997) s221-8.
7. Lewin, A, Lavon, H. "The effect of coenzyme Q10 on sperm motility and function." Mol. Aspects Med. 18 (1997) s213-9.
8. Balercia, G, Buldreghini, E, Vignini, A, et al. "Coenzyme Q10 treatment of infertile men with idiopathic asthenzoospermia: a placebo-controlled, double-blind randomized trial." Fertil Steril. 91 (2009) 1785-92.