15 July 2011
Posted in Our Planet, Our Universe
Wine may not just be for unwinding after a hard day of work on Earth. French researchers suggest red wine may reduce the effects of microgravity on astronauts in space. Microgravity is also known as weightlessness or zero gravity. It is a state of free fall, just like the feeling you get as you drop on a roller coaster.
When experienced over an extended period of time, microgravity can have some scary consequences. Bone deterioration, muscle loss, weakened immune system, dehydration, and shortness of breath are all common side effects of weightlessness on astronauts. Human bones grow in a state of gravity and our immune system builds up to ward off infections we are exposed to on Earth. Once humans are taken out of that state of gravity and familiar environment for an extended period of time, our bodies can react negatively to the change. In space, many astronauts experience nausea, headaches, sweating, and of energy from Space Adaption Syndrome. It usually lasts a few days, but their immune system is weakened.
Astronauts go through extensive training to prepare for these effects. But according to recent research, drinking red wine could reduce the risks associated with zero gravity. As stated in an article from DiscoveryNews.com, “Red wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that prevents blood clots, lowers "bad" cholesterol levels, and just helps protect your blood vessels in general. And now it seems as if resveratrol can also prevent bone density loss and muscle atrophy.” By studying rats in a simulated microgravity environment, the French researchers were able to see that those rats that didn’t receive resveratrol showed a loss of bone and muscle density, as well as signs of pre-diabetes from insulin resistance.
So what’s the catch? Why aren’t astronauts popping bottles of vintage in space? It turns out the rats had to consume quite a bit of resveratrol to show resistance to microgravity. It would take more than one or two glasses of wine for humans to do so. NASA certainly doesn’t want our astronauts intoxicated in space, so more research will need to be done. For now, the astronauts aboard Atlantis can look forward to a nice glass of wine when they come back to earth.