One of the reasons we don’t live on Mars is because life would be very difficult. One day, the weather can be a pleasant 70 degrees. At night, it can drop down to 100 below zero. During the summer, dust storms pick up, and they can darken the atmosphere for months. There is also the issue of partial gravity. The gravitational pull on Mars is about 40 percent of what it is on Earth. This can take a toll on a person’s body. It can cause your weight-bearing bones to weaken, and the muscles that aren’t challenged can begin to atrophy.
Astronauts go into space knowing full well what they are in for. The astronauts on the International Space Station have access to exercise equipment to counteract these effects. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t have access to this equipment on Mars. This means that if astronauts were going to set foot on Mars, they would need another way to prevent weakening bones and atrophied muscles. Fortunately, researchers have come up with something.
Researchers from Harvard believe that they may have found a dietary supplement that is capable of counteracting these issues. It is called resveratrol, and it is an antioxidant found in grape skin, blueberries, and even red wine.
Dr. Marie Mortreaux
The lead author of the study was Dr. Marie Mortreux. She is a researcher at Harvard’s Department of Neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. There, she became familiar with the compound while she was studying diabetes and obesity. This made her aware of the potential effects that these issues can have on muscle growth.
Dr. Mortreux did an interview with Fox News, where she discussed previous studies that had been performed on astronauts that showed that weightlessness induced insulin-resistance in the muscle. She says that the resveratrol has been known for its anti-diabetic effects. She says that her studies have proven that the resveratrol could prevent bone loss. The research was eventually published in the scientific journal, Frontiers.
Testing the Theory
All good scientists who come up with a theory will use science to back it up. This is precisely what Dr. Mortreux did. She and her team started by constructing a special apparatus to simulate the gravity on Mars. They used rats for their experiment, and the team fitted them with tailored jackets and pelvic harnesses. The two items were linked by a triangle-shaped steel chain and then attached in the middle of the cage. When they adjusted the length of the chain, they were able to decrease the rats’ weight-bearing ability. In doing so, they made sure to make sure they could still live normally and with quadrupedal posture.
The results showed that half of the rats experienced normal loading based on the Earth’s gravity. The other half experience 40 percent loading, which is the equivalent to the gravity on Mars. Of all the rats in the group, only six from each group were given water to drink. The other six were given 150mg of resveratrol each day. All of the rats consumed the same food.
Each week, the team measured the calf muscles on the rats. They found that the rats who were only given water, “on Mars” had weakened grip and shrunken calf muscles. The rats that received resveratrol didn’t lose any muscle strength.
This leads some to believe that red wine could help astronauts stay strong on Mars. According to Dr. Mortreux and her team, this is not true. Although wine is a source of resveratrol, it doesn’t contain enough to be helpful in space.
Too Many Issues
In order for resveratrol to be effective, astronauts would need high doses. While they could take the high doses in space, the supply would take up far too much space on the craft. There is only so much room on a spaceship, and if you load enough resveratrol to last for the whole mission, there would be no space for living quarters. There also would be enough space on the ship or food, clothing, or the other essentials an astronaut will need during a mission. It would be nice for an astronaut to open a bottle of wine at the end of a long day, but it isn’t the best idea while you are in orbit. It will take further studies and further experimentation to figure out how to go to Mars without experiencing any life-long issues. Maybe, in time, we will find the perfect solution to this problem. If we do, years and years from now, you could book a vacation to Mars and be perfectly healthy while you are there and when you come home.