Study Finds Lack of Vitamin E Is a Major Cause of Physical Decline

aa-7.jpgA good anti-aging supplement that includes vitamin E may help maintain physical strength and agility.

Declining physical abilities as we grow older are believed to be at least partly from declining nutritional levels. An important new study has found that a lack of vitamin E may be the most important factor in physical decline, which makes it a vital component of our anti-aging strategy.

Although the study says that the negative effects of poor nutrition on our physical abilities are not entirely clear, they are probably due to increased inflammation and oxidative stress, which can lead to muscle and nerve cell damage. And the lack of the ‘micronutrient’ vitamin E, it says, was found to be the major factor in age-related physical decline.

This breakthrough study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), comes with an impeccable pedigree. It involved health and anti-aging scientists and researchers from Cornell University, Yale University, University of South Carolina, National Institute on Aging, and two Italian universities — University of Perugia and Azienda Sanitaria Firenze. The study followed 698 community-living people 65 years or older for three years, randomly selected from the population in Tuscany, Italy.

The decline in physical strength and agility that we all experience to some degree as we get older has been known for decades to be addressable with better diet and a sensible exercise regime. This is the first study to identify a single nutrient, in this case vitamin E, as a vital anti-aging component of diet, and to specify that we need more of it as we grow older. Luckily for us, vitamin E supplements are a quick and easy way to meet this anti-aging challenge. Although vitamin E is also a component of daily multivitamin and mineral supplements, which are a good idea, there is not enough vitamin E in most multivites to meet our needs.

Vitamin E is actually a complex of eight vitamin E molecules, or ‘vitamers.’ Vitamin E is composed of four ‘tocopherols’ and four ‘tocotrienols,’ each with its own unique structure and activities not shared with other E components. Taking just one or two has been shown to actually deplete the others that exist in our bodies, causing a potentially harmful imbalance, according to several studies. The solution is to choose a complete vitamin E supplement.

Vitamin E is an important antioxidant. It protects our bodies from ‘free radicals’ — oxygen-based molecules that, given free reign, can create ‘oxidative stress’ at a cellular level. Low levels of vitamin E can lead to a serious imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants, when our bodies will really begin to suffer. Along with damage to muscle and nerve cells, there can be actual DNA damage, which leads to serious degenerative diseases. Also, oxidative stress contributes to degenerative nerve disorders as well as atherosclerosis — often called ‘hardening of the arteries’ — which has long been a target of anti-aging research.

We need more anti-aging supplements like vitamin E as the years go by for several reasons:

  • Older bodies start to wear out naturally, and anti-aging nutritional elements are needed more than ever just to counteract the normal wear and tear.
  • Our bodies become less able to absorb nutrients: We should supplement our diets with hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) and digestive enzymes, both of which decline as we age and are needed to get the nutrients out of our food. Supplements containing betaine hydrochloride whenever we eat a meal help our system break down the food. Animal and vegetable enzyme supplements, also a meal-time must, are essential to the digestive process.
  • We often become habitual with our menus, ignoring the need for variety: If we’re in a food rut, we really need to make a change. A variety of fresh veggies, fruits, grains and proteins from meat, fowl, fish and dairy is even more important when we get older, otherwise we are missing out on essential nutritional elements. And remember that vitamin E is found mostly in the dark-green variety of vegetables — but not enough for older folks. Vitamin E supplements are needed too.

During the study of Italian seniors, when regular lab tests discovered that vitamin E was the strongest determinant of decline in physical function regardless of age, the researchers took a look at physical decline in the more advanced age groups and compared them against younger groups. Eighty-four percent of people over 81 experienced measurable physical decline. But low vitamin E levels led to a decline in physical function in 61% of everyone in the study.

Other studies have also reported that oxidative stress is involved in muscle fatigue, showing how antioxidants like vitamin E can help prevent it. High concentrations of vitamin E have been linked to skeletal muscle repair, which slows the decline of physical function in the elderly, indicating how important the complete vitamin E complex is as a regular anti-aging supplement.

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