It’s an unfortunate fact of life: every single day we get a tiny bit older. I truly believe that you’re only as old as you feel, and just because you’ve hit your 35th birthday doesn’t mean you don’t look and feel 25! Unfortunately our eggs, or oocytes, don’t agree with the theory that feeling young at heart makes us look young at heart. As women, we are born with an unchangeable number of eggs. Over time the quality of these eggs naturally declines, regardless of how we feel about it, but it’s not all downhill from there! Although we can’t change the number of eggs we have, we may be able to change the quality of those eggs and quality is more important than quantity, right?! And while we’re on the topic, we can influence the quality and quantity of sperm too!
How can we influence egg quality?
Even though we’re stuck with a certain number of eggs, we can influence the quality of our eggs because they are arrested in a stage of cell division called meiosis I. This means they are not mature and they have not completed cell division. It’s the maturation process that we can influence! Female eggs remain in the early stage of cell division until a woman reaches puberty. Once a woman has a menstrual cycle, a few of these eggs mature each cycle and compete for ovulation and move into the next stage of cell division. This cell division is responsible for dividing DNA and ultimately influencing the end quality of the egg.
Where does CoQ10 come in?
If you remember grade 8 science class (I know that’s a lot to ask) then you’ve probably heard of the mitochondria being the “powerhouse” of the cell. In order for the oocytes to divide efficiently, they need lots of energy from their mitochondria and coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that is essential for providing this energy. Our eggs cannot function without CoQ10, which is why our body naturally makes a certain amount. However, as we get older we produce less CoQ10 and we end up with eggs that aren’t great at dividing and have poorer development.
This lack of mitochondrial energy translates into: difficulty ovulating, trouble conceiving, and in the case of IVF- issues with making an embryo that survives to day 5 to be transferred. Poor quality eggs put you at greater risk of miscarriage due to aneuploidy, a term that refers to an abnormal number of chromosomes in the embryo. Poor egg and sperm quality are major causes of infertility. This can all sound very overwhelming, but CoQ10 plays a role in improving the quality of both eggs and sperm!
The possibilities of CoQ10 for egg development:
- Decreases the rate of aneuploidy (abnormal chromosome numbers)
- Boosts mitochondrial function and cell division
- Increases energy, or ATP, production in the egg
- Stimulates more eggs to develop in combination with IVF
- Prevents DNA oxidation, causing damage
- Induces ovulation in combination with clomid in cases of clomid-resistant women with PCOS
- Significantly improves endometrial thickness, serum estrogen, and serum progesterone in clomid-resistant women with PCOS
- Significantly improves clinical pregnancy rates in clomid-resistant women with PCOS
- Greater concentrations of CoQ10 are associated with higher grade embryos in IVF and better embryo development
The possibilities of CoQ10 for sperm development:
- Decreases the rate of aneuploidy (abnormal chromosome numbers)
- Increases energy, or ATP, production in the sperm
- Prevents DNA oxidation, causing damage (decreases DNA fragmentation)
- Increases sperm concentration
- Increases mitochondrial function and sperm motility
- Decreases abnormal sperm morphology
Wow that’s a lot! Are you hooked on CoQ10? Here’s what you need to know to incorporate it into your life:
If you’ve been to the health food store lately you’ve likely seen the innumerous number of brands and forms of CoQ10. There are two forms of CoQ10 that are important to know: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. They both exist in our cells; in fact our mitochondria depend on the interconversion between the two forms. According to current research, ubiquinol is slightly more readily absorbed in the gut compared to ubiquinone. However, even more important than the form of CoQ10 is the method it is delivered. Since CoQ10 is a fat-soluble substance, it needs to be compounded in a fat-soluble material. This can be tricky to figure out based on a label alone, so it’s best to trust your neighbourhood naturopathic doctor in prescribing the best option for you. You should also refer to a naturopathic doctor to determine the optimal dose to suit your unique needs. Dosing can range from 200-800mg depending on your requirements, but there’s also a maximum amount of CoQ10 your body can absorb at one time.
The take home message:
CoQ10 has the potential to significantly improve egg and sperm quality due to age related decline. It takes both an egg and sperm about 3 months to mature, so if you’re considering fertility supplements you and your partner should begin at least 3 months prior to conception. May you always be ageless, including your eggs!
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