Is wine the key to getting astronauts to Mars?

Red wine has been known to have some health benefits like lowering your risk of dying from heart disease. Now, it could be the secret to keeping future Mars’ travelers stay fit.

As NASA inches closer and closer to places beyond the moon, a new study says resveratrol found in red wine could help better astronauts’ fitness when they explore Mars. The study, published in Frontiers in Physiology earlier this month, found that just a daily dose of resveratrol — an antioxidant found in grape skins and blueberries — can help preserve muscle mass and strength to combat Mars’ lack of gravity.

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If NASA wants to reach beyond the moon, which celebrates its 50th anniversary since the Apollo 11 moon landing, its astronauts need to get fitter. Compared to Earth, Mars has just 40% of Earth’s gravitational pull, which could prove problematic for astronauts to operate successfully on missions to Mars.

The International Space Station has exercise machines, but future astronauts won’t have access to it if they are traveling to Mars, which takes about nine months to reach from Earth with current technology.

“Dietary strategies could be key,” said Dr. Marie Mortreux, a lead author of the study. “Especially since astronauts traveling to Mars won’t have access to the type of exercise machines deployed on the ISS.”
The study, which was performed on rats, sought to find how resveratrol affects muscle mass during times when the muscle isn’t always used. Two dozen rats were used in the experiment, with researchers exposing them to both Earth’s gravity and the equivalent of Mars for 14 days. For each group, half received resveratrol served in the water while the rest simply just had water.

Rats exposed to Mars’ conditions had weakened rip strength and suffered muscle loss, which was expected. But the rats that received resveratrol surprisingly had much-improved grip strength. They also had less muscle loss.

Mortreux added: ”Resveratrol treatment promotes muscle growth in diabetic or unloaded animals, by increasing insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake in the muscle fibers. This is relevant for astronauts, who are known to develop reduced insulin sensitivity during spaceflight.”