Antioxidants That Help Support Egg And Sperm Health
by Marisa Kahlich
In this article:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Meet The Author
We partnered with Marisa Kahlich, L.Ac MSAOM, Owner and Clinical Director of the Texas Center For Reproductive Acupuncture to walk through a few antioxidants that help support egg and sperm health.
Antioxidants are easy enough to get via a balanced, clean diet supplemented with a quality prenatal vitamin. That said, there are several other key nutrients clinically proven to shield eggs and sperm from oxidative stress, while contributing to overall health outcomes.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is one — progressively gaining recognition for its benefits as a powerhouse antioxidant. CoQ10 comes in two main forms - ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Ubiquinone is not methylated, meaning it has to be converted in the body before it is active. Ubiquinol, however, is methylated and is therefore more readily bioavailable to be used by our cells for energy. While both forms are beneficial, the recommended dose is much higher for the unmethylated version — ubiquinone — meaning you need more of it (almost double) for the same effect. Studies suggest CoQ10 supports the healthy development of gametes by reducing cellular oxidation and inflammation and increasing energy production (ATP) in our cells. What’s more, studies suggest that women who've taken CoQ10 have also benefited from improved IVF and pregnancy outcomes, including women with diminished ovarian reserve and women of advanced maternal age (Gleicher). Further research is ongoing. Levels of CoQ10 studied that suggest benefit are around 200-300mg daily.
Glutathione is arguably one of the most important inherent antioxidants in the body. It helps with phase 1 hormone detox in the liver and is therefore imperative for proper hormone balance. Similar to CoQ10, glutathione helps to protect our mitochondria from cellular oxidation and levels decline as we age. (Mosoni et al.) Increasing tissue levels of glutathione can have a positive impact on egg and sperm quality by reducing the likelihood of DNA damage from free radicals. This is especially true when other conditions exist that contribute to poor egg quality such as PCOS, endometriosis and unexplained infertility. (Adeoye et al.) Glutathione has also been shown to improve sperm motility in men with androgen imbalance. (Lenzi et al.)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
High quality fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acid supplements (DHA, EPA, DPA), can also be considered by anyone trying to conceive. Omega-3s provide a myriad of health benefits, including reduced inflammation, better cardiovascular health and suggestive of improved fertility outcomes in women with low ovarian reserve and advanced maternal age (Nehra et al.). Omega-3s also serve as a mild anticoagulant, which can be beneficial for implantation. Additionally, omega-3s, in particular DHA, aid in embryo neurodevelopment in utero and may reduce risk of preterm labor (Coletta et al.). Caution should be used for people taking blood-thinning medications. They are also beneficial for male infertility, with the potential for improving overall sperm count, morphology, and motility (Safarinejad and Safarinejad).
For anyone diagnosed with PCOS or preparing for an IVF egg retrieval, inositol is another supplemental resource that benefits egg quality, regulates the cycle, and improves insulin sensitivity. Sometimes referred to as vitamin B8, inositol comes in two main forms — myo inositol (MI) and d-chiro inositol (DCI). MI has been shown to improve insulin resistance and has been studied compared to Metformin, both showing effect. Inositol offers a safe option for physicians to consider. Myo inositol is suggestive of preventing gestational diabetes (Tahir and Majid). The DCI form of inositol is said to reduce androgens by improving testosterone synthesis. It’s important to mention that currently, there is no evidence to show a benefit from taking DCI alone for fertility. MI on the other hand, has proven to benefit egg quality in obese women, improve IVF outcomes in women with PCOS undergoing IVF, and improve cycle lengths in women who are also taking folic acid (Regidor and Schindler). Generally speaking, the dosage recommendation is to either take 2gm of MI or MDI once or twice daily along with a prenatal vitamin or folate supplement.
Note: This article is the words of Marisa Kahlich, L.Ac MSAOM. The information provided in this article and on the UpSpring website is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if seeking medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
- Adeoye, Oyewopo, et al. “Review on the role of glutathione on oxidative stress and infertility.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5844662/. Accessed 29 April 2021.
- Coletta, Jaclyn, et al. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Pregnancy.” Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3046737/. Accessed 27 April 2021.
- Gleicher, Norbert. “CoQ10 for Fertility.” Center for Human Reproduction, September 2020, https://www.centerforhumanreprod.com/dor/coq10-fertility-and-pregnancy/. Accessed 28 April 2021.
- Lenzi, A., et al. “Glutathione therapy for male infertility.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 1992, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1503526/. Accessed 29 April 2021.
- Mosoni, Laurent, et al. “Age-related changes in glutathione availability and skeletal muscle carbonyl content in healthy rats.” National Library of Medicine, 2003, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15036413/. Accessed 29 April 2021.
- Nehra, Deepika, et al. Prolonging the female reproductive lifespan and improving egg quality with dietary omega-3 fatty acids. NBCI, 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5624332/. Accessed 7 April 2021.
- Regidor, Pedro-Antonio, and Adolf E. Schindler. “Myoinositol as a Safe and Alternative Approach in the Treatment of Infertile PCOS Women: A German Observational Study.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5011528/. Accessed 29 April 2021.
- Safarinejad, Mohammed, and Shiva Safarinejad. “The roles of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in idiopathic male infertility.” NCBI, 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3720081/. Accessed 29 April 2021.
- Tahir, Faryal, and Zainab Majid. “Inositol Supplementation in the Prevention of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6823013/. Accessed 29 April 2021.
- Xu, Yangying, et al. “Pretreatment with coenzyme Q10 improves ovarian response and embryo quality in low-prognosis young women with decreased ovarian reserve: a randomized controlled trial.” US National Library of Medicine, 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5870379/. Accessed 28 April 2021.