Long established as a powerful antioxidant, vitamin E is important for the membrane that envelops your muscle cells, promoting proper healing from the natural tears that take place when you work out, according to a new study.
"Every cell in your body has a plasma membrane, and every membrane can be torn," says corresponding author Dr. Paul L. McNeil, cell biologist at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.
The study, which was published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, has implications for muscular dystrophy, traumatic brain injury, common diabetes-related muscle weakness and -- of course -- body builders.
"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," says McNeil. "If that occurs over a long period of time, what you get is muscle-wasting disease."
Working with rats, McNeil and his team established their natural ability to run downhill on a treadmill, a challenging exercise called eccentric contraction and it helps lengthen muscles, according to the study.
Next, they fed them either normal rodent chow, chow in which the naturally occurring vitamin E had been filtered out, or a diet lacking in vitamin E save for a synthetic supplement.
Vitamin E deficient rats had trouble running compared to their healthy counterparts and were more likely to visit a rest area despite receiving a mild electric shock upon doing so.
The research team administered a colorant that they believed was incapable of passing through the muscle cells' plasma membranes, yet it did so in the vitamin E deficient rats.
When comparing the quadriceps muscle fibers of the rats fed normal chow against those of the rats that had been fed vitamin E supplemented chow, the research team found little difference.
The important thigh muscle fibers in the vitamin E deficient rats were smaller and inflamed compared to those in the two other groups.
Dry roasted sunflower seeds, almonds, cooked spinach and safflower oil are all examples of foods rich in vitamin E, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
What's more, overdoing vitamin E is not the same health concern that excess of other vitamins can be, according to a 2013 study from Oregon State University in the US.
"Toxic levels of vitamin E in the body simply do not occur," says author Maret Traber of OSU, an internationally recognized expert on vitamin E. "Unlike some other fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A and D, it's not possible for toxic levels of vitamin E to accumulate in the liver or other tissues."