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Reason to Serve Red Wine on the Space Station?

Cosmonauts gather to have some cognac on the Mir space station in 1997. The image was taken by NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger.

Some new research may make NASA reconsider its “no alcohol in space” policy. A new study suggests that the “healthy” ingredient in red wine, resveratrol, may prevent the negative effects that weightlessness has on muscle and bone metabolism. This also could apply to people who live sedentary lifestyles.

The study had rats in the simulated the weightlessness of spaceflight, and the group that was fed resveratrol did not develop loss of bone mineral density or develop insulin resistance, as did those who were not fed resveratrol.

Weightlessness was simulated by hindlimb tail suspension, a common technique used to study weightlessness physiology. The control group that was not given resveratrol showed a decrease in soleus muscle mass and strength, the development of insulin resistance, and a loss of bone mineral density. The group receiving resveratrol showed none of these complications.

“There are overwhelming data showing that the human body needs physical activity, but for some of us, getting that activity isn’t easy,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the journal Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). “A low gravity environment makes it nearly impossible for astronauts. For the earthbound, barriers to physical activity are equally challenging, whether they be disease, injury, or a desk job. Resveratrol may not be a substitute for exercise, but it could slow deterioration until someone can get moving again.”

Of course, resveratrol can be taken in supplement form, but why spoil the fun? It is well known that Russian cosmonauts have imbibed in space, although probably not on the International Space Station. Alexander Lazutkin, who served aboard the Mir space station has said that Russian doctors recommended alcohol for “neutralizing the harmful effect of the atmosphere,” to keep cosmonauts “in tone” and to neutralize tension.

Weissmann added that red wine could become the “toast of the Milky Way.”

The study was published in the FASEB Journal

Sources: EurekAlert, Cosmic Log

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Austin Luton June 30, 2011, 9:00 PM

    This post should have also mentioned that resveratrol has extremely low bioavailability in humans, and that none of the results of the rat and mice studies of resveratrol have been observed in human studies, even at high doses.

  • Anonymous June 30, 2011, 10:03 PM

    Why not drink dark concord grape juice? Concord grape juice has most of the same health benefits. More importantly, it has none of the drawbacks of alcohol consumption.

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-nutrition/AN00576

    I make it a point to drink a couple of glasses of this stuff a day.

    • Anonymous July 1, 2011, 3:34 AM

      Drawbacks of alcohol consumption?

      • Jamie Kitchen July 4, 2011, 2:09 PM

        It givs you the urge to grow a porn star moustach. The 2 in the foreground have obviously fell victim.

  • Anonymous June 30, 2011, 10:32 PM

    Hm. I guess, they had tons of Vodka on Mir… that would explain how that cosmonaut (I don’t remember his name) could stay there for over a year… alone!

  • Ethan Walker July 1, 2011, 1:04 AM

    It’s about time they got rid of the restriction on alcohol. The lack of booze is the #1 reason I haven’t joined the astronaut core.

    • Anonymous July 1, 2011, 4:38 AM

      It’s not so bad. There’s an exposed freon connection near the Kibo module, and we all take a huff now and then. The ground controllers have been trying to pin down that “leak” for years.

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