Choosing the right supplements when trying to get pregnant is confusing with all the choices available. However, some become increasingly important as you get older. One of them is CoQ10.
How does CoQ10 improve egg quality to help a woman in her late 30s or 40s get pregnant? CoQ10 helps the eggs produce the vast amount of energy needed for all stages of conception – from ovulation, fertilization, implantation, to division from one cell into a healthy baby. CoQ10 is also a powerful antioxidant which protects the eggs from damage caused by aging, inflammation, and environmental sources.
The focus of your ability to get pregnant as you age is often on your ovarian reserve - the number of eggs you have left. Yet, little attention is given to the importance of the quality of the egg. As the saying goes, “it only takes one.” So how do you make that one count?
How CoQ10 Improves Egg Quality
Mitochondria are the power plants of the cell, including eggs and sperm.
They provide energy by converting food into ATP which fuel the cell’s activities.
As we age, the mitochondria become less efficient and fewer new, healthy ones are made.
Eggs have about 200 times more mitochondria than any other cell. When eggs are developing, they use a tremendous amount of energy.
Early embryo division and implantation also require a lot of energy.
Studies show that the mitochondria of older eggs produce significantly less ATP.
In fact, young egg cells have about 75% more ATP than egg cells from older women. (study) This has a significant impact on fertility, as the rate of division and successful implantation of embryos has more to do with how much energy the egg has than with your actual chronological age. (study)
Mitochondrial Energy Production
Within the mitochondria, 95% of all cellular energy production depends on CoQ10.
CoQ10 is also your only fat-soluble antioxidant. As an antioxidant, it protects the eggs from damage caused by toxins.
CoQ10 is also called ubiquinone because it is ubiquitous in the body and are so important that they're made by all of your cells.
Deficiency of CoQ is thought to contribute to the accelerated egg loss and poor pregnancy outcomes seen with aging.
However, studies show that supplementing with CoQ10 can be helpful for couples dealing with infertility.
A study of women undergoing IVF found that CoQ10 increased the number of high-quality eggs. (study)
Animal studies show that CoQ10 specifically increases mitochondrial function in the eggs. (study)
Food Sources of CoQ10
Although many people think of CoQ10 as a supplement, you can also get CoQ10 from food.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t able to get a significant amount through diet alone. This is because the foods that are highest in CoQ10 are not usually part of our diet.
The best sources of dietary coenzyme Q10 are organ meats like liver, heart, and kidney which have high activity rates.
Many vegetarian foods have CoQ10 but in such small amounts that it’s best to supplement with CoQ10 if you're trying to get pregnant.
Decode Your DNA to Know If You are at an Increased Risk of CoQ10 Deficiency
While age is one factor in reducing the amount of CoQ10 your body produces, genetic variants can also be involved here.
CoQ10 becomes Ubiquinol with the help of an enzyme called Coenzyme Q10 reductase.
The gene that codes for CoQ10 reductase is NQ01. A variation of the NQ01 gene makes a version of CoQ10 reductase that breaks down in the body much faster than usual, so less of it is available to convert CoQ10 to Ubiquinol.
Taking CoQ10 in the form of Ubiquinol form bypasses the need for the CoQ10 reductase enzyme.
If you have done genetic testing, such as 23andMe or Ancestry DNA, you can check to see if you carry the common variant for NQO1 that reduces its capability to convert CoQ10 to the antioxidant version.
You can check your raw data file to see which form of the NQO1 gene you carry.
Check your genetic data for rs1800566:
GG: normal NOQ1 function
GT: reduced NOQ1 function
TT: greatly reduced or no NOQ1 function(study)
Supplementing with CoQ10
Because optimal levels of CoQ10 is difficult to get from food alone, it’s easiest to take a supplement.
Ubiquinol is the better absorbed form of CoQ10 whereas Ubiquinone is more commonly found in supplements because of its lower cost.
However, Ubiquinone must be converted to Ubiquinol so taking Ubiquinol will skip this conversion process.
If you carry the genetic variant listed above, supplementing with the Ubiquinol form may be even more important for you.
There is a limit to the amount of CoQ10 that your body will absorb from food or supplements.
Fertility studies that showed a benefit used either 200mg/3 times per day or 300mg/twice a day.
Taking smaller doses more frequently allows the body to absorb and use more of the CoQ10. Taking CoQ10 with fatty food also helps with the absorption. (study)
A significantly higher number of primordial follicles after 12 weeks of treatment with CoQ10. So if you choose to supplement with CoQ10, give it at least three months as a trial, if not longer.
Healthy egg cells need both a large number of mitochondria and for those mitochondria to be able to produce lots of energy. CoQ10 can help with overall cell health by acting as an antioxidant and through helping the mitochondria to efficiently produce energy.
Is CoQ10 safe?
CoQ10 is naturally occurring in all of your cells and has been used as a dietary supplement for more than 30 years. A one-year long toxicity study in animals determined that levels of up to 1200mg/day are safe. And supplementing with CoQ10 doesn’t decrease your own body’s production of CoQ10. (study) Several studies have used CoQ10 supplements in women who are trying to conceive, showing both effectiveness and safety of supplementation.
Should my male partner take CoQ10?
CoQ10 has been shown to improve sperm quality, resulting in a significant improvement in concentration, motility, and morphology. (study) Since it takes about 70 days for sperm to mature, men should take CoQ10 for at least 3 months and continue until pregnancy is achieved.
Chicken Liver Pate
As one of the most nutrient-dense foods available, liver is one of the best food sources for CoQ10 and has been favored for millenia for its fertility-boosting benefits.
2 tbsp organic coconut oil
1 lb chicken livers, rinsed in cold water and drained
1 medium onion, sliced
½ cooking apple (Granny Smith, Jonagold, Honeycrisp) peeled, cored and chopped
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp pepper
Ground nutmeg (optional)
½ cup bone broth (or full fat coconut milk or water)
Melt coconut oil in pan over medium high heat.
Add sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they become soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of bone broth if onions get too brown or start sticking to the pan.
When the onions are soft and golden, add apple to the pan. Continue cooking for 4-5 minutes, until the apple gets soft. Again, add a little bit of bone broth if mixture gets too dry.
Add the chicken liver to the mixture in the pan. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so, until the liver is brown on the outside but still slightly pink on the inside.
Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Blend until smooth, adding bone broth as needed so it can mix easily. Be careful about adding too much liquid since you want it on the thicker side so that it can be spread with a knife. Season with more salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.
Pour the mixture into a container and refrigerate until ready to eat.
This pâté will keep for about 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Freeze any extra. Just transfer it from the freezer to the fridge the night before.
Serve pate with sliced jicama, cucumber, baby carrots, radishes, celery, apples, or pears.
Liver pate can be an acquired taste for many people. If the liver flavor bothers you, here are some things you can do to make it less “livery”...
soak liver in milk overnight and rinse thoroughly before cooking
add 1 whole apple instead of ½ apple
Add hot sauce which should disguise most, if not all, of the taste completely.