A recent study determined the health benefits of resveratrol supplements in preserving muscle mass and strength under simulated Mars gravity.
Humans have not been beyond Earth’s orbit in decades, but this is about to change. In the next few years, NASA plans to transport astronauts back to the moon, and eventually on to Mars. The moon and Mars both have significantly lower gravity than Earth, which are equal to 16 and 38 % of that of Earth, respectively.
Life in the microgravity environment of space brings many detrimental changes to the human body. One of the major challenges to long-term space missions is the threat of severe bone loss in astronauts. According to NASA, astronauts lose on average 1 to 2 % of their bone mineral density every month they are in space. The changes to the bone may affect the ability of astronauts to move and walk upon return to Earth’s gravity.
In a new paper published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, a group of researchers at the Harvard Medical School investigated the effect of resveratrol supplements in mitigating muscle deconditioning in a Mars gravity environment. Resveratrol is a polyphenol commonly found in grapes and blueberries and has shown great promise in anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and anti-diabetic effects.
To test the hypothesis with an animal model, the research team fitted rats with a full-body harness and suspended by a chain from their cage ceiling. Under this simulated Mars gravity environment, 24 male rats were exposed to normal or two-fifths of earth gravity for 14 days. In each group, half received resveratrol with water, and the others got just the water as a control.
As expected, the simulated Mars condition weakened the rats’ grip and shrank their calf circumference, muscle weight, and slow-twitch fiber content. Surprisingly, resveratrol supplementation nearly rescued front and rear paw grip in the Mars rats to the level of the non-supplemented Earth rats. Noticeably, resveratrol did not affect food intake or total body weight.
This study suggests the potential of a nutraceutical approach to reduce musculoskeletal deconditioning on a long-term mission to Mars. More studies are needed to confirm the lack of any potentially harmful interactions of resveratrol with other drugs administered to astronauts during space missions.
Written by Man-tik Choy, Ph.D
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Reference: Mortreux M. et al. A Moderate Daily Dose of Resveratrol Mitigates Muscle Deconditioning in a Martian Gravity Analog. Frontiers in Physiology, 2019;10:899. DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00899.
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