Coenzyme Q 10, aka Co Q 10, but also known as ubiquinone, is a fat-soluble, vitamin-like compound that naturally occurs in most cells of the body, primarily in the mitochondria. Co Q 10 is needed for the basic function of cells and is the source of energy for the mitochondria. Mitochondria are the organelles inside cells that generate energy for the cell in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary source of energy in human physiology. Co Q 10 functions as a lipid-soluble antioxidant, providing protection against free radical damage within mitochondria.
CoQ 10 is formulated with the help of an amino acid called tyrosine and vitamin B6, but also is found in meats (especially organ meats), sesame oil, soybeans, nuts and beans. As individuals hit their mid-20s, their level begins to decline as well as the ability to absorb the antioxidant. Although Co Q 10 is somewhat new in regard to public knowledge, research on this powerful antioxidant has been steady over the last 60 years.
It is well known that the chances for women conceiving begin to decline around the age of thirty. It is felt that the major reason for this phenomenon is a decline in oocyte quality, probably on the basis of chromosomal abnormalities. This is thought to be the cause of increasing miscarriages and increasing risks of having babies with Down’s syndrome. One concept is that the decline in oocyte quality could be associated with a decrease in mitochondrial activity. Therefore, if using supplements such as Co Q 10 could increase mitochondrial activity and serve as a potent antioxidant, then maybe the ovary could perform better and women would have higher pregnancy rates with lower risk of pregnancy loss.
A recent study of Co Q 10 published in early 2010 from Toronto Canada reported results that were very promising in regard to helping older ovaries perform better. The investigators looked at the role of CoQ 10 in improving egg quality in female mice. Old female mice were given CoQ 10, resveratrol, or R-alpha lipoic acid; the latter two substances are known to benefit mitochondria. Young female mice received placebo. The authors observed that only the old female mice receiving CoQ10 supplementation had an increase in the number of ovulated eggs and an increase in the litter size. The old female mice fed CoQ 10 had a similar number of ovulated eggs and litter size as the young female mice. The old female mice fed resveratrol or R-alpha lipoic acid had fewer ovulated eggs and smaller litter sizes than the young female mice and the old female mice fed Co Q 10.
After the publication of the study by the group in Toronto, the investigators began a study on “middle aged women”. However, the group is currently having a difficult time recruiting participants, as once the patients learn about the study, women are no longer willing to be placed in a placebo group and prefer to supplement with CoQ10 anyway. There is controversy of what dose is recommended for patients with different diseases. Most doses range from 30 mg to 200 mg, however, some recommendations are doses up to 1200 mg/day (Parkinson’s disease). Although we do not have a well designed study to support the efficacy of using Co Q 10 for our patients with older ovaries, many patients are electing to give it a try. After all, there is probably no harm in using this supplement.