Washington: Vitamin E is rubbed on the skin to reduce signs of ageing and is consumed by runners to improve endurance. But scientists now have found how the powerful antioxidant helps repair tears in the plasma membrane.

Daily activities such as eating and exercise can tear the plasma membrane and a new research by Georgia Health Sciences University shows that vitamin E is essential to repair, the journal Nature Communications reported.

Without repair of muscle cells, for example, muscles eventually waste away and die in a process similar to what occurs in muscular dystrophy, said a university statement.

Muscle weakness is a common complaint in diabetes, another condition associated with inadequate plasma membrane repair.

"Without any special effort we consume vitamin E every day and we don't even know what it does in our bodies," said Paul McNeil, Georgia's cell biologist and study co-author.

Century-old animal studies linked vitamin E deficiency to muscle problems but how that happens remained a mystery until now, McNeil said.

According to him, lack of membrane repair causing muscle wasting and death prompted him to look at vitamin E.

Vitamin E appears to aid repair in several ways. As an antioxidant, it helps eliminate destructive byproducts from the body's use of oxygen that impede repair.

Because it's lipid-soluble, vitamin E can actually insert itself into the membrane to prevent free radicals from attacking. It also can help keep phospholipids, a major membrane component, compliant so they repair better after a tear.

(Agencies)