1 July 2011

Space travel safer with shiraz

by Kate Melville

Intriguing new research in the FASEB Journal suggests that the "healthy" ingredient in red wine, resveratrol, may prevent the negative effects of weightlessness that astronauts suffer. The report describes weightlessness simulations with rats in which the resveratrol-fed rodents failed to develop insulin resistance or a loss of bone mineral density, typical health problems encountered by astronauts in space.

"There are overwhelming data showing that the human body needs physical activity, but 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," explained Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal.

In the experiments, weightlessness was simulated by hindlimb tail suspension. The control group of rodents showed a decrease in muscle mass and strength, development of insulin resistance, a loss of bone mineral density and loss of resistance to breakage. The group receiving resveratrol showed none of these complications.

The study speculates as to some of the underlying mechanisms by which resveratrol may work and also suggests that it may be able to prevent the deleterious consequences of sedentary behaviors in earthbound humans. "If resveratrol supplements are not your cup of tea, then there's good news. You can find it naturally in red wine, making it the toast of the Milky Way," quipped Weissmann.

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Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology