A urologist recently asked me what supplements, apart from a multivitamin, I’d recommend for men with reduced fertility. My top choice was ubiquinol – the active form of coenzyme Q10.
Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like substance needed to process oxygen and generate energy-rich molecules within mitochondria – the energy factories found in most body cells. Cells which work the hardest – muscle, liver and sperm cells – contain the most mitochondria and therefore need the most coenzyme Q10.
After the age of around 25, the production of coenzyme Q10 declines by around 10% every ten years. Without sufficient coenzyme Q10, cells do not produce energy efficiently and may function at a sub-optimal level. While you can obtain some coenzyme Q10 from cell-based foods such as offal, meat, fish, whole grains, nuts and green leaves, average food intakes are estimated at up to 5mg for meat eaters and 1mg daily for those following a plant-based diet.
Falling sperm counts
Research published in the journal, Human Reproduction Update, suggests that average sperm concentrations have more than halved within the last forty five years from just over 101 million per ml in 1973 to 49 million per ml in 2018 – a drop of 51.6%. Total sperm count also fell by 62.3% over the same time period.
Lack of coenzyme Q10 may contribute to subfertility in some men, and supplements may help to improve sperm count in some cases.
Coenzyme Q10 is also beneficial for female fertility – especially in older women.
Why coenzyme Q10 is vital for male fertility
Sperm are produced at the extraordinary rate of 1,500 per second within each testicle and consist of a head (containing genetic material), a middle piece which is packed with around 75 mitochondria, and a tail that propels it forward.
Healthy sperm swim at a rate of around 3 mm per hour and with every 800 lashes of its tail moves forward by around a centimetre. These whiplash tail movements are vital for sperm motility and the energy for propulsion is generated by the mitochondria – a process which requires coenzyme Q10. Given that a normal sperm count ranges from 15 million to 300 million sperm per millilitre, that represents a lot of mitochondria competing to obtain sufficient coenzyme Q10 to function properly.
As well as fuelling sperm motility, the ubiquinol form of coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant that mops up the free radicals produced by these energy-generating reactions. If not neutralised, these reactive molecular fragments can damage sperm through a process known as oxidative stress which can lead to genetic mutations.
Researchers have found a direct correlation between sperm count and the amount of ubiquinol present in seminal fluid – the higher the concentration of ubiquinol, the higher the sperm count. Male subfertility – due to low sperm count, abnormal sperm morphology or reduced motility – has also been associated with low levels of coenzyme Q10.
In one study, 228 men with infertility for at least 2 years took either 200 mg ubiquinol coenzyme Q10 or inactive placebo every day for 26 weeks. In those taking ubiquinol, average sperm counts increased by 15% after 8 weeks, by 43% after 16 weeks and by 81% after 26 weeks compared with placebo. Their sperm motility also significantly improved by 18% at 12 weeks, 26% at 20 weeks and by 31% at 26 weeks and sperm morphology became more normal. When they stopped taking the ubiquinol supplements, however, their sperm quality started to decline again over the following 12 weeks. The researchers concluded that ubiquinol was significantly effective in men with unexplained low sperm count, improving their sperm density, sperm motility and sperm shape.
Another study involving 60 men with low sperm count found that taking 150mg ubiquinol for 6 months improved total sperm motility by 26%, the quantity of rapidly motile sperm by 41% and reduced the number of sluggish sperm by 29% and reduced the number of non-motile sperm by up to 55%.
Combining ubiquinol with other antioxidants such as vitamin E and vitamin C may improve sperm even more – according to one study by 49% after 3 months and by 81% after 6 months treatment, with 45% going on to successfully achieve pregnancy with their partner.
Ubiquinol is one of my favourite supplements – as well as helping cells to function optimally, and also helps to overcome lethargy, fatigue and is beneficial for many age-related health conditions such as high blood pressure and heart failure.
If you are experiencing difficulty in conceiving it’s worth taking a ubiquinol supplement at a dose of 100mg to 200mg per day. It has no known drug interactions and few, if any, side effects at these doses.
I suggest taking it in the morning as it is energising and I have found it keeps me alert if taken before bedtime.