The secret to pain-free aging?

As you age, will you be hobbling about with sore joints and muscles, or walking tall, strong and pain-free? According to two recent studies, that may depend on your intake of antioxidant nutrients.

Researchers at Wake Forest University reviewed data from an existing study with the elderly looking for a link between dietary intake of antioxidants and muscle strength and physical performance. Physical tasks included walking speed, ability to rise from a chair, knee extensions and standing balance. The researchers found that a higher intake of vitamin E was significantly linked with better knee extension and physical performance. Good intakes of vitamin C and beta-carotene were significantly linked with better knee extension strength, and vitamin C alone was significantly linked with better physical performance. The researchers concluded that higher dietary intakes of most antioxidants — especially vitamin C — was associated with higher muscular strength in elderly persons.

In a similar study, this one from the University College of Medicine in Korea, researchers investigated the link between antioxidant intake and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Using 97 RA patients and 97 controls, this study evaluated dietary nutrient intake and antioxidant levels. Nutrient intake was estimated using a food frequency questionnaire. Twenty subjects from each group provided blood samples to measure vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) and the activity levels of two other important free radical scavengers, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx). The results showed that intake of fat, vitamin A, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol, SOD and GPx were all significantly lower in RA patients than in control patients.

Sources: Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Feb;79(2):289-94; J Am Coll Nutr. 2003 Aug;22(4):311-5