Only about one in ten of us get enough of a vitamin that plays a central role in keeping muscles healthy. Your muscles depend on it to repair themselves.
And even though research indicates that this nutrient might also help the heart muscle heal after a heart attack, it’s sorely lacking in our diets and that could be putting our health at risk.
The crucial vitamin I’m talking about? Vitamin E. . .
While a torn muscle can be a serious injury that can take a long time to heal, it’s the small damage you don’t even know about that should be your focus.
Microscopic tears in the plasma membranes that surround each muscle cell happen just about every day. Matter of fact, when athletes – or anyone for that matter – lift weights to get stronger, the act of weightlifting tears many of the plasma membranes.
That’s no problem if you’re a weightlifter and you’re getting enough E. The body is designed to quickly repair those minuscule tears within minutes. And those tears and repairs are part of the muscle-building process. The result is stronger, bulkier muscles.
But without vitamin E, research demonstrates, those membranes can’t get patched efficiently.1 Consequently, when vitamin E is seriously deficient, muscles can’t maintain strength and they weaken. They can’t build themselves back up sufficiently to even recover from normal day-to-day wear.
“Part of how we build muscle is a 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 researcher Paul L. McNeil, a cell biologist. “If that occurs over a long period of time, what you get is muscle-wasting disease.”
A Must For Heart Attack Victims
There are other muscular implications to being short of vitamin E. Because this vitamin is so important for muscle cell repair, scientists in Australia recently performed lab tests to see if it could be used to help restore the heart muscle after a heart attack.
Their initial tests show it can. Plus, it seems to work so well, the Aussies are now performing further research to see if a quick dose of vitamin E should be given to virtually every heart attack victim.2
“One of the most effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents is vitamin E and its derivatives,” says researcher Karlheinz Peter. “Our treatment regime reflects clinical conditions, where patients could receive their first application of vitamin E in the ambulance or upon their arrival in the emergency department, before reopening and stenting the blocked vessel and the following days in hospital before discharge.”
Besides these types of muscular functions, studies have revealed numerous other reasons to pay closer attention to your vitamin E intake:
- It may lower the risk of pneumonia in older men. During an eight-year study at the University of Helsinki of men aged 50 to 69 years, taking vitamin E supplements lowered the risk of pneumonia by up to 70%, depending on the men’s lifestyle habits. The researchers caution that more studies need to be done on vitamin E’s effects on seniors, but they found real benefits.3
- Vitamin E along with vitamin C can help people with diabetes and metabolic syndrome reduce the health-threatening effects of oxidative stress. According to researchers at the University of Oregon, folks with blood sugar issues often have an excess growth of harmful bacteria in the digestive tract. The bad microbes impair the function of the intestines, lead to toxins accumulating in the blood stream and deplete both vitamin C and E. To fight back against this issue, having more of these vitamins along with eating more fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of heart problems and fatty liver disease.4
To get more vitamin E from your diet, eat more nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables. These are all healthy sources of this nutrient.
If you decide to take vitamin E supplements, take natural vitamin E – for instance, seek out d-alpha-tocopherol, not the synthetic dl-alpha-tocopherol.
And remember that vitamin E actually consists of eight nutrients. These include alpha, beta, gamma and delta versions of both tocopherols and tocotrienols. Each of these types of vitamin E conveys its own unique health benefits.
For best results, take all eight in your supplements. That might mean taking two separate pills – a mixed tocopherol with all four tocopherols, and a mixed tocotrienol with all four (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) of those. You’ll find it’s worth the effort!
Take your tocopherols and tocotrienols on alternate days, as a nutritionist told me they compete for the same receptors on cells. By the way, you don’t need huge doses of the E family – unlike C and D, where the rule is pretty much “more is better.”