Red wine could hold key to keeping Mars astronauts fit
Research conducted by Harvard Medical School has revealed that a chemical found in red wine, called resveratrol, could be used to protect astronauts’ muscles during missions to Mars.
Without the force of gravity, astronauts’ muscles and bones can weaken.
Dr Marie Mortreux, who led the study, said: “After just 3 weeks in space, the human soleus muscle shrinks by a third. This is accompanied by a loss of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are needed for endurance.”
The research found that a chemical called resveratrol, which is found in the skins of red grapes and blueberries, can assist in preserving muscle mass and strengths in rats, even when subjected to zero gravity.
Mortreux said: “Resveratrol has been shown to preserve bone and muscle mass in rats during complete unloading, analogous to microgravity during spaceflight.
“So, we hypothesised that a moderate daily dose would help mitigate muscle de-conditioning in a Mars gravity analogue, too.”
The study saw researchers expose 24 rats to either Earth or Mars conditions for 14 days, with 12 of them receiving resveratrol in their water.
Measuring the rats’ calf size and paw grip weekly, the researchers analysed the calf muscles at the end of 14 days.
The results showed that the rats in Mars conditions who had not received resveratol displayed weakened grip strength and shrunken calfs.
In contrast, the rats who had received resveratrol had a grip strength that was almost normal and a reduced loss of slow-twitch muscle fibres.
Calf circumference, however, was unaffected, which Mortreux pertained to “insulin sensitivity”.