A new study suggests that future travelers to Mars may want to consider packing a few boxes of red wine. Or, more practically, supplements of a compound found in red wine that can help keep muscles from withering away, per a release at Eureka Alert. Harvard researchers make the assertion in a NASA-funded study at Frontiers in Physiology. In the study, researchers kept a group of rats in an environment that mimicked the gravity of Mars, which is only about 40% of Earth's. That weaker gravity is bad news for muscles, because it means they don't have to work as hard and thus atrophy, explains CNN. In the study, rats dosed with resveratrol showed significantly less atrophy than their undosed counterparts after just 14 days. The findings could help not just with stays on Mars, but in the months of zero-gravity travel to get there.
"After just 3 weeks in space, the human soleus [calf] muscle shrinks by a third," says lead author Marie Mortreux. "This is accompanied by a loss of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are needed for endurance." The undosed rats demonstrated this. The dosed rats, by contrast, had virtually no loss in the strength of their front and rear paw grip. The resveratrol also protected their muscle mass, though protection wasn't complete—their calf circumference and calf muscle fibers decreased. Still, researchers say the next step is to conduct more research to figure out the best dosage for humans. "Dietary strategies could be key," says Mortreux. They also must make sure that supplements won't interact with other drugs given to space travelers. (Once there, Mars residents may want to build greenhouses out of this aerogel.)