Wine might be the answer to all our spacefaring woes, saving astronauts from muscle degeneration and worse

A daily dose of wine could help protect astronauts from the degenerative effects of space travel.


Human beings are no longer aiming the Moon, we want to go further. The current space race is pushing more countries to aim for other planets, especially Mars.

An astronaut will have to travel six to eight months to reach the Red planet, which is not something they do regularly. And spending that much time in space poses its own set of challenges.

Long term space travel not only affects the mind, it also has an adverse effect on the human body. Bones can become porous, there's a loss of muscle mass, and as was observed in NASA's Twin Study, even DNA is altered. Cognitive abilities could also be impaired.

Dr Marie Mortreux, lead author of a study that seems to have found a solution, said in an interview with Science Daily, "After just 3 weeks in space, the human soleus muscle shrinks by a third. This is accompanied by a loss of slow-twitch muscle fibres, which are needed for endurance." She said that diet might be key to ensuring astronauts don't suffer through this when they do not have access to exercise machines like astronauts on the International Space Station do.

Wine might be the answer to all our spacefaring woes, saving astronauts from muscle degeneration and worse

Wine might be the answer to muscle degeneration woes in space.

Scientists are trying to find ways to reduce the effects of space on the human body so that they can make these long journeys in good health. And they might have found a solution in the skins of grapes and blueberries. Resveratrol (RSV) is a compound that is found in grapes and has natural anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-diabetic properties. Mortreux said that this compound has shown that it can preserve muscles mass and bones in mice. Hence, the researchers theorize that a daily dose of resveratrol could help astronauts prevent muscle deconditioning in space.

Since grapes are used in winemaking, the inference is quite obvious.

Mars has only 40 percent of Earth's gravity. Spending time in the zero gravity of space and on the low gravity of Mars can lead to an increase in injuries, performance impairment and heart diseases. To test how effective RSV would be in helping astronauts cope with this difference in gravity, researchers studied its effects in mice. Twenty four rats in total were used in this study. They were fitted with full-body harnesses, then suspended by a chain from the ceiling of their cages for 14 days. Over those two weeks, half of the rats were fed water supplemented with RSV and the other half, the same water without any RSV in it. At the end of the test, the researchers analysed the calf muscles of the rats.

Representational image Credit: NASA

Space travel sounds exciting, but it can have a detrimental effect on human health. Image: NASA

They found that the 14-day experiment weakened the muscles of all the rats. However, the group that received RSV supplements had better control over its muscles. RSV also protected muscle mass in these rats.

However, further studies are required to understand the effects of different dose in males and females, and to find out if RSV supplements react with other drugs administered to astronauts during these missions. The findings of these studies are published in the journal Frontiers.

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