A new study now finds that red wine could have beneficial effects on muscles as well. While it is already known that red wine helps fight cancer, obesity and even cavities, the new study, on rats, by a Harvard team has now found that a red wine compound called resveratrol, could help keep astronauts toned and healthy during tips in space or during Mars expedition.
With NASA inching closer towards finding ways in which it can finally send human travelers to Mars, one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that astronauts who finally embark on the journey to the Red Planet are actually in good shape when they finally reach. The new study now suggests that red wine may be holding the key.
Published in the Frontiers in Physiology, the research focuses on resveratrol, a compound that is found in the skin of some berries, including grapes. Red wine is particularly rich in the compound.
To mimic that unearthly environment in the lab, the team fitted 24 male rats with a harness that suspended them by a chain from the ceiling of their cages. Using this technique, some rats experienced the equivalent gravity of Mars, while a control group just had normal Earth gravity.
In each of these groups, half drank normal water while the other half had theirs spiked with 150 mg of resveratrol per kilogram per day. All the rats were given the same food, with the experiment running for two weeks. The rats were weighed weekly with their calf circumference, front and rear paw grip force measured regularly. Post the experiment, their calf muscles were further analysed and researchers found that the lower gravity conditions reduced the rats' grip strength, calf circumference, muscle weight, and slow-twitch fibers.
According to the researchers, resveratrol did manage to stave off the worst of those effects. Rats that received treatment retained paw grip equal to that of the Earth-gravity rats that didn't receive supplements.
Speaking about the same, Marie Mortreux, lead author of the study, revealed, "After just three weeks in space, the human soleus muscle (in the calf) shrinks by a third. This is accompanied by a loss of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are needed for endurance. Dietary strategies could be key, especially since astronauts traveling to Mars won't have access to the type of exercise machines deployed on the ISS."
Post the study, researchers found that the mass of muscles like the soleus and gastrocnemius appeared to be completely protected by the resveratrol, and the loss of the slow-twitch fibers was also slowed.
However, deeper analysis showed that the treated rats still lost some calf circumference and average cross-sectional area of the muscles.
While too early to determine, the team suspects the anti-inflammatory effects of resveratrol are helping to conserve the animals' muscle and bone, and improve their insulin sensitivity.
However, Morteux added that the study is relevant for astronauts who are known to develop reduced insulin sensitivity during spaceflight as Resveratrol treatment promotes muscle growth in diabetic or unloaded animals, by increasing insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake in the muscle fibres.