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Increased intake of vitamin E may improve physical functions after fracture

May 1, 2011

According to a new US study, higher blood concentrations of vitamin E may be associated with a better recovery after hip fracture for the elderly.

In this observational study, serum concentrations of the two major forms of vitamin E (α- and γ-tocopherol) were measured in 148 women aged 65 years and older with hip fractures (1). The relationship between vitamin E concentrations and physical functions – based on measurements such as the Six-Minute-Walk-Distance-Test – was assessed in the patients 2 weeks prior to the hip fracture (self-report) as well as at 2, 6, and 12 months after fracture. The study results showed that higher concentrations of vitamin E before and after hip fracture were associated with better physical function. Stronger associations with physical function were noted for the ?-tocopherol form than the γ-tocopherol form.

With regard to potential mechanisms the researchers noted that vitamin E may exert beneficial effects on physical function in hip fracture patients by helping to quench the excessive oxidative stress that occurs as a result of the trauma due to hip fracture injury and subsequent surgical repair. Oxidative stress has been shown to damage muscle tissue, and antioxidants, such as vitamin E, may protect against impairments in physical function induced by damaged muscle (2). Vitamin E may be of particular importance to the recovering muscle as γ-tocopherol supplementation has been found to reduce muscle damage during surgery (3). The superior antioxidant properties of γ-tocopherol may account for the fact that this form of vitamin E was generally more strongly associated with physical function than γ-tocopherol.

The researchers suggested that older adults at high risk for hip fracture as well as those currently recovering from this type of injury could potentially benefit from vitamin E supplementation. However, these findings must first be confirmed in clinical trials before increased vitamin E intake can be recommended for hip fracture patients.

References

  1. D’Adamo C. R. et al. Serum vitamin E concentrations and recovery of physical function during the year after hip fracture. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2011.
  2. Bonetto A. et al. Are antioxidants useful for treating skeletal muscle atrophy? Free Radic Biol Med. 2009; 47(7):906–916.
  3. Novelli G. P. et al. Vitamin E protects human skeletal muscle from damage during surgical ischemia-reperfusion. Am J Surg. 1997; 173(3):206–209.