3 Supplements That Can Boost Fertility
It’s no secret that couples are waiting longer to have children. Higher education, job security and income stability are all legitimate reasons to delay starting a family. Predictably this delay may come at a cost, as there is a sharp decline in fertility in women over 35 and men (although to a lesser extent) over 40.
Fortunately there are ways to maximize fertility even with advancing age. Minimizing environmental toxins, improving how we react to stress, incorporating healthy eating habits and getting regular exercise are all great ways to contribute to egg and sperm quality. Additionally, the following three supplements can boost fertility and increase the chances of conceiving.
1. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10 for short, is a lipid-soluble component of virtually all cell membranes. It performs as a powerful antioxidant and helps produce energy in our cells. CoQ10 behaves differently than other antioxidants in that it can get into the mitochondria, the powerhouse that helps our cells do their jobs. Levels of CoQ10 drop as we age, and consequently may affect cellular function – including development of healthy eggs, sperm and embryo development.
One study through the University of Toronto showed that by injecting “old, retired breeder” mice with CoQ10, scientists were able to rejuvenate the animals’ eggs – spurring more eggs to develop, and of a quality as genetically normal as the eggs of mice in their prime. The offspring of the treated older mice, the human equivalent of age 50, also looked as healthy as those with younger mothers (1). Although this was an animal study, the research looks promising.
Additionally, a recent peer-reviewed study published in the, “The Journal of Urology”, found that CoQ10 improved sperm density, motility and morphology in sub fertile men. The researchers postulated that oxidative stress was one of the main components contributing to sub fertility, and the antioxidant effects of CoQ10 worked as an oxidant scavenger (2).
2. Vitamin D
In humans, the vitamin D receptor (VDR) is present in the ovaries, uterus and placenta. Consequently, vitamin D has many roles in female reproduction when bound to the VDR on reproductive cells. This includes boosting estrogen and progesterone, which regulate menstrual cycles, the uterine lining, and improve the likelihood of successful conception. One study in particular found a four-fold difference in pregnancy rates between vitamin D sufficient and deficient women (3).
The benefits of vitamin D are not just for female fertility. It is now confirmed that vitamin D is produced locally in the sperm, and is essential for healthy development of semen quality and quantity (4). Finally, vitamin D also increases levels of testosterone when corrected in Vitamin deficient individuals, which may boost libido
3. Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil
Omega 3 fatty acids have a profound effect on every system in the body, and are essential for healthy hormone functioning. Some research has shown that women who regularly consume omega-3 fats may have better fertility outcomes. Their rates of conception are higher, miscarriage rates tend to be lower, and the risk of premature birth is also reduced. During pregnancy, omega-3 fats are essential for a baby’s brain, spine, and eye development. Additionally, regular omega-3 consumption has been shown to help endometriosis and uterine fibroids (5).
For men, Omega 3 fatty acids are crucial because the semen is rich in prostaglandins, which are produced from Omega 3 fatty acids. Men with poor sperm quality and quantity may have inadequate levels of these beneficial prostaglandins. In fact, a recent study published in Clinical Nutritionexamined the differences between 82 infertile men with reduced sperm counts and 78 normally fertile men. Compared to the infertile participants, the fertile men had higher levels of omega-3s in both their blood and spermatozoa (6). The research supports the importance of omega-3s in male fertility.
The best source of omega-3s are obtained by eating fish, particularly oily, cold-water fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and anchovies two or three times per week. If that is not possible, supplementing with a high quality brand of fish oil is highly recommended.
In conclusion, yes it is true that an increasing amount of men and women are struggling with fertility. Fortunately there are lifestyle choices and a few key supplements that can help immensely. Please note that proper dosing and possible contraindications are individualistic. It is strongly recommended to follow the guidance of a licensed healthcare practitioner with knowledge in this area before beginning supplementation.
By Dr. Rachelle Viinberg, BSc, ND
Dr Viinberg is a Thursday Evening Lecture host on Thursday Feb 12, 2015.
- Bentov, Y., Casper, R., Esfandiari, N. et al. 2011. The contribution of mitochondrial function to reproductive aging. J Assist Reprod Genet. 28: 773-783.
- Safarinejad, M., Safarinejad, S, Shafiei, N. et al. 2012. Effects of the reduced form of coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinol) on Semen Parameters in Men with Idiopathic Infertility: A Double-blind, Placebo Controlled, Randomized Study. The Journal of Urology. 188 (2): 526-31.
- Rudick, B., Ingles, S., Stanczyk, F, et al. 2012. Characterizing the influence of vitamin D levels on IVF outcomes. Human Reproduction. 27(11): 3321-3327.
- Aquila, S., Guido, C., Middea, E. 2009. Human male gamete endocrinology: 1alpha, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D3) regulates different aspects of human sperm biology and metabolism. Reprod Biol Endocrinol: 7: 140.
- Kasim-Karakas SE, Almario RU, Gregory L, Wong R, Todd H, Lasley BL. Metabolic and endocrine effects of a polyunsaturated fatty acid-rich diet in polycystic ovary syndrome. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 89, No. 2 615-620.
- Safarinejad, M., Hosseini, S., Dadkhah, F, et al. 2010. Relationship of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids with semen characteristics, and anti-oxidant status of seminal plasma: A comparison between fertile and infertile men. Clinical Nutrition. 29 (1): 100-105.