Researchers at Georgia Regents University have uncovered how vitamin E protects and strengthens muscle cells, which could have implications for muscular dystrophy, diabetes-related muscle weakness, and even traumatic brain injuries. In this study, rats were fed either normal rodent chow, chow without vitamin E, or vitamin E-deficient chow accompanied by vitamin E supplements. Results showed that compared to controls, the vitamin E-deficient animals showed reduced running ability and spent more time at the grid even though they received an electrical shock when they stood there. Injected with a dye that penetrates muscle cells, the vitamin E-deficient animals showed this dye did not enter the cells. Biopsies of the muscle cells showed small and more inflamed cells only in the vitamin E-deficient animals. The researchers conclude that vitamin E enables cell membrane repair, while without ample amounts of the vitamin, repair fails in the presence of free radicals. “Every cell in your body has a plasma membrane, and every membrane can be torn,” states the researchers. This study is the first to identify how vitamin E works to build and maintain strong muscles.
In Perspective: Vitamin E has long been known to be a powerful antioxidant. This study explains how the plasma membrane, which keeps a cell from losing its contents and controls what moves in and out of it, cannot properly heal without the vitamin. Any physical activity can potentially tear this membrane, so maintaining optimal intake is critical not just for athletes, but for everyone.
Labazi M, McNeil A, Kurtz T, et al: The antioxidant requirement for plasma membrane repair in skeletal muscle. Free Radical Biology and Medicine 2015;84: 246-253.