Might antioxidant supplements protect against muscle damage?

supplementsReactive oxygen species (ROS) are a component of the stress response that may contribute to muscle damage after eccentric exercise. That’s when the muscle elongates while under tension due to an opposing force being greater than the force generated by the muscle.

Researchers from the University of Limerick, in Ireland reviewed studies of 2 antioxidants, which scavenge ROS, to prevent or limit muscle damage.

First, the details.

  • The focus of the review was on vitamins C (ascorbic acid) and E (tocopherol).
  • The studies used a variety of dosage, timing, and duration of supplementation.

And, the results.

  • There is little evidence to support a role for vitamin C and/or vitamin E in protecting against muscle damage.
  • Recent studies cast doubt on the benign effects of long-term, high-dosage antioxidant supplementation.
  • High doses of vitamin E, in particular, is associated with increased death (due to any cause).

The bottom line?
Vitamins C and E are among the most commonly used sport supplements, and are often taken in large doses by athletes and other sportspersons because of their potential protective effect against muscle damage.

The authors concluded, “There is little evidence to support such a role.”

Furthermore, “Since the potential for long-term harm does exist, the casual use of high doses of antioxidants by athletes and others should perhaps be curtailed.”

11/16/09 21:52 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.