It may be hard to believe, but many people still consider fertility strictly a female concern. People can be quick to give a woman diet and lifestyle guidance when they find out she is trying to get pregnant, but what about the man? There is increasing evidence that the age of the male partner and his diet and lifestyle choices can affect his ability to conceive and impact pregnancy health.
This article will explain what can affect male fertility and discuss the benefits of a little-known nutrient called coenzyme Q10(CoQ10).
Misconceptions Surrounding Fertility
According to Dr. Paul Shin of Shady Grove Fertility, “One of the big things that we as male fertility specialists are trying to overcome is the notion that fertility problems are solely the domain of female health. This popular sentiment is shifting a bit, and more men are now aware that it is not just a female problem.” In fact, about 40% of fertility concerns are due solely to the male partner.
What Factors Affect Male Fertility?
Many factors affect a man’s sperm health and, ultimately, his fertility. Numerous studies show that advanced paternal age can impact semen volume, sperm count, and overall function. One of the most damaging things to sperm is an excess of reactive oxygen species, known as free radicals, in the semen.
The Fight Against Free Radicals
While some contributors to free radicals are endogenous (produced in the body), others are due to lifestyle and environment. Lifestyle factors such as excessive smoking and alcohol and environmental factors such as radiation and overexposure to certain pesticides and other chemicals can contribute. These reactive oxygen species, or oxidants, are generally kept under control by antioxidants in the semen. However, when the amount of oxidants in the semen is greater than the number of antioxidants, oxidative stress occurs.
During the three months that it takes for sperm to develop and mature, oxidative stress can cause damage by attacking and destroying the sperm cell membrane. Oxidative stress also damages sperm DNA, causing sperm DNA fragmentation. This means the DNA strands are filled with many breaks and nicks. DNA fragmentation can negatively impact fertilization and embryo development. Even men who had normal semen analysis results could have some sperm DNA fragmentation.
CoQ10 and Male Fertility
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant nutrient with many potential health benefits. It is naturally made in the body and is found in small amounts in foods such as meat, poultry, fish, vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. As we age, the production of CoQ10 in our body decreases. Research estimates that we only consume about 3-6 mg of CoQ10 per day from our diet. Higher doses, such as those used in research studies, can be achieved by taking CoQ10 supplements.
Research suggests that CoQ10 may have several health benefits, including supporting healthy muscles and blood pressure levels, promoting heart health, and even supporting male fertility.
CoQ10 Supplementation Benefits
CoQ10 is present in seminal fluid, and studies suggest higher levels have been linked to better sperm count (number of sperm) and sperm motility (movement of sperm). CoQ10 supplementation can help support male fertility in two ways: as an antioxidant and a sperm motility enhancer.
CoQ10 is a Powerful Antioxidant
Antioxidants such as CoQ10 work by protecting cells from damage caused by free radicals. Studies have shown that taking a CoQ10 supplement may enhance male fertility by decreasing oxidative stress and promoting healthy sperm.
CoQ10 Enhances Sperm Motility
Normal sperm motility (movement) is crucial for fertilization when trying to conceive naturally or through intrauterine insemination (IUI). Sperm cells must “swim” to the egg fertilize it. During natural conception, sperm must travel through the cervix into the uterus. From the uterus sperm, then swim further into the fallopian tube where fertilization takes place. That is a great distance to cover, and it requires the sperm to produce a lot of energy.
CoQ10 is essential for cellular energy production. The conversion of energy to ATP (the form of energy used by cells in the body) requires CoQ10. So, in theory, taking CoQ10 should help improve cellular energy production. This additional cellular energy should also affect sperm cell energy production, resulting in the sperm’s improved ability to swim.
In summary, fertility is not only a female concern. Men should also be concerned about their sperm health. CoQ10 is an antioxidant and energy-producing nutrient that is essential for male fertility. Taking this important nutrient while trying to conceive could support healthy sperm quality and help in overall fertility.