Vitamin E Shown to Help Athletes Recover From Muscle Damage Caused by Free Radicals

WASHINGTON, July 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Vitamin E may be able to counter body damage from exercise, the Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter, a leading advisory publication on improving health, has reported.

Dr. Jennifer Sacheck, an exercise physiologist at Tufts, studied groups of physically active men and found that older people particularly, including very fit seniors, often suffer after exercise from an increase in free radical activity that damages body tissue.

Free radicals in older people "can get out of control after heavy exercise," the Health and Nutrition Letter said. Part of the solution, the letter said, "may be the antioxidant Vitamin E which can squelch free radical activity."

Dr. Sacheck, testing her hypothesis that "giving older exercisers supplements of Vitamin E ... would take the edge off muscle damage," recruited a group of physically active men aged 66 to 78 and a younger group aged 23 to 35. Test subjects received intake of Vitamin E in supplement form daily for three months, with some getting a placebo for comparison of results.

Both before and after the Vitamin E supplementation period, the men ran for 45 minutes, 15 minutes at a time with five-minute breaks, and then had their soreness evaluated. The men also received blood tests measuring markers for muscle damage, inflammation, and stress from free radicals.

"Dr. Sacheck's thinking," the Health and Nutrition Letter reported, "was that the older men who took Vitamin E would get the biggest benefit and that the younger E-takers would get little if any, because their bodies would 'know' not to go into free radical overproduction.

"But while she thought the older men would respond more dramatically, she was surprised at the significant effect that also occurred in the younger exercisers," the letter said.

So while the older men experienced less inflammation, the younger ones also had less soreness and muscle damage. Dr. Sacheck concluded that those most likely to benefit from the Vitamin E supplement program are older exercisers who are above average in fitness. "One of the subjects was 80 years old and played racquetball," she said.

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