Two recent studies demonstrated how the antioxidant vitamins C and E may protect our bodies from oxidative stress that damages cells, tissues and organs.
Vitamin E for Boomers
In the first study, vitamin E supplementation greatly improved two established markers for oxidative stress in middle age and elderly subjects—cell membrane fluidity in red blood cells and reduced levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), a bi-product of lipid oxidation.
Why is this important?
Cell membrane integrity and fluidity is necessary for cell function, viability, growth and reproduction. And since all cell membranes are composed of lipids, preventing lipid oxidation is important to maintain the health and function of all cells.
As vitamin E resides primarily in cell membranes, researchers believe it helps protect fatty acids in cell membranes from oxidative damage.
For the study, researchers randomly assigned 180 healthy participants between the ages of 55 and 77 into four groups that received vitamin E in doses of 0, 100, 200, or 300 mg of d-alpha tocopheryl acetate per day for four months.
At the end of the study, blood levels of alpha-tocopherol increased by 71, 78 and 95 respectively.
MDA levels were significantly decreased in all three vitamin E groups and there were dramatic improvements in the membrane fluidity of red blood cells. There was also decreased rupturing of red blood cells.
Women Using Contraceptives
Another study indicated that vitamin C and E supplementation resulted in less oxidative damage in women using oral contraceptives.
The researchers randomly assigned 120 healthy women to one of three groups. One group received oral contraceptives only (.03 mg ethinylestradiol/.15 mg levonorgestrel), another group received the contraceptives plus 150 mg of vitamin C and 200 IU of vitamin E, and the remaining group received no intervention (the control group).
At the end of four weeks, the contraceptive-only group had increased levels of MDA indicating lipid oxidation, and reduced activity of the antioxidant enzymes glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase—the body’s primary defense.
However, the group that received vitamin supplementation along with contraceptives had significantly reduced levels of MDA and increased activity of glutathione enzymes.
According to study authors, the data suggests that low-dose oral contraceptives, by increasing oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation, may represent a potential cardiovascular health risk factor, and the use of vitamins E and C may be beneficial in providing additional antioxidant protection.