Vitamin C and E supplementation may strengthen antioxidant defense system during exercise

October 29, 2010

Vitamin C and E may ameliorate maximal exercise-induced oxidative stress and its erythrocyte damaging effects, according to a Turkish study.

In the randomized controlled trial, 14 basketball players were randomly assigned to two groups trained with maximal exercise for 35 days receiving a combination of vitamin E (150 mg/day) and vitamin C (500 mg/day) or placebo (1). Blood samples were taken at the beginning and the end of the study to measure vitamin plasma levels and lipid peroxidation levels in plasma and erythrocytes indicating activity of “ Reactive Oxygen Species” (ROS). The results showed that the levels of ROS in plasma and red blood cells (erythrocytes) were significantly lower in the group receiving vitamins C and E compared to the placebo group. In addition, plasma levels of vitamin C and E were higher in the supplemented group.

The researchers concluded that sportspeople undergoing maximal exercise are subject to increased lipid peroxidation in blood inducing erythrocyte damage. The intake of antioxidant vitamins has shown to reduce maximal exercise-induced oxidative damage and could be useful in the prevention of oxidative stress during exercise.

Oxidative stress is characterized by a high level of free radicals causing oxidative degradation of lipids in cell membranes ( lipid peroxidation), among other things, which can result in cell (e.g., erythrocyte) damage. Exercise-induced oxidative stress has received considerable attention in recent years. Exercise mode, intensity and duration, as well as the subject population tested, all can impact the extent of oxidation. The generation of ROS in response to acute exercise can occur via several pathways, such as increased mitochondrial respiration in muscles. An inactivation of ROS can be carried out by antioxidant vitamins. Vitamins E and C are thought to be very important agents in providing protection against oxidative stress. Vitamin C, in addition to being a free radical scavenger, also regenerates vitamin E as antioxidant. The reduction properties of vitamin C are important also in the absorption of dietary iron, which is need for the formation of hemoglobin in erythrocytes.


  1. Naziroglu M. et al. Oral vitamin C and E combination modulates blood lipid peroxidation and antioxidant vitamin levels in maximal exercising basketball players. Cell Biochem Funct. 2010; 28:300–305.