A new study, published in the Free Radical Biology and Medicine journal, has revealed the metabolic pathway associated with building strong muscles. Vitamin E has previously been associated with anti-oxidant activity and the association between vitamin E and healthy muscles has been established in previous studies. The ability of vitamin E to repair cell membranes has implications for muscular dystrophy, and common diabetes-related muscle weakness, as well as traumatic brain injury, resulting from collisions on a football field, battlefield, or roadway.
“Every cell in your body has a plasma membrane, and every membrane can be torn,” said Dr. Paul L. McNeil, cell biologist at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University and corresponding author of the study in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine.
“Part of how we build muscle is a more natural tearing and repair process, that is the no pain, no gain portion, but if that repair doesn’t occur, what you get is muscle cell death. If that occurs over a long period of time, what you get is muscle-wasting disease,” said McNeil.
“This means, for the first time, 83 years after its initial discovery, we know what the cellular function of vitamin E is, and knowing that cellular function, we can now ask whether we can apply that knowledge to medically relevant areas,” McNeil said.
The study used rat models to mimic the impact on the human body. Rats were fed either normal rodent chow, chow where vitamin E had been removed, or vitamin E-deficient chow where the vitamin was supplemented. Training was used to ascertain the rats’ innate ability to run downhill on a treadmill. The exercise lengthened muscles, producing the most soreness in athletes because of the high mechanical stress as the muscle contracts and lengthened simultaneously.
The researchers attribute their findings to the fat soluble activity of vitamin E and can insert itself into the membrane to prevent free radicals from attacking. Exercise causes the mitochondria in every cell to burn a lot more oxygen than normal and to produce more free radicals while the physical force tears the membrane. Free radicals are associated with cell damage, and vitamin E is vital to membrane repair.
Sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils; nuts; seeds such as sunflower seeds; green leafy vegetables; and fortified breakfast cereals, fruit juices, and margarine.