Vitamin E could help ease the pain of stiff muscles after exercise, according to a recent study presented at this week's Experimental Biology conference in New Orleans.
The research, carried out by a team led by Dr Jennifer Sacheck of Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, suggests that the vitamin's antioxidant properties help relieve the pain of sore muscles by combating the free radicals caused by the metabolism of oxygen during exercise.
Vitamin E has long been known as a powerful antioxidant, although its use as a post-exercise pain reliever had not been extensively investigated.
Sacheck's team focused on two teams of men - one aged 23 to 35, the other aged 66 to 78 - who were given either a 1000 IU supplement of vitamin E every day for three months or a placebo. The men were asked to note the levels of muscle soreness after exercise over the three month period.
While muscle damage, oxidative stress and inflammation all still occurred following intense exercise, their effects were substantially alleviated by the vitamin E, Sacheck told the conference. The same effect was seen in both the young and the old men, although the young men showed the most benefits.
Sacheck stressed that her study had focused only on men, and that as such it was unclear whether vitamin E had the same effect on young women after exercising. She said that the impact of circulating oestrogens could reduce the potency of the antioxidant in young women, although older, post-menopausal women would probably benefit from the antioxidant effect.
Although the 1000 IU/day dose of vitamin E used in the study was relatively high, Sacheck said that she expected similar results could be obtained from much lower doses - 200-400IU/day.