Scientists say astronauts' drink of choice should be red wine

Red wine helps prevent the bone loss and atrophied muscles induced not only by weightlessness in space but also by general couch-potato-ness.

Poor astronauts. They spend their whole lives studying hard and being as perfect as can be in order to take on one of the most challenging jobs known to humankind -- and for their efforts, they're rewarded with the same health ailments that plague couch potatoes: bone density loss and atrophied muscles -- in this case, induced by weightlessness in space.

But there's good news for these suffering souls (and for couch potatoes everywhere): red wine, which is delicious and makes one appear sophisticated, contains a key ingredient that prevents both those health problems.

It's long been known that red wine has resveratrol, a type of antioxidant that helps protect your blood vessels, lowers "bad" cholesterol and prevents blood clots.

Researchers in France conducted experiments in which they simulated weightlessness in rats by hanging them by their tails. Half of them also received a dose of resveratrol every day, while the others got nothing.

The rats who did not take the resveratrol supplement lost bone and muscle density and also developed insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes. The rats who received resveratrol? They had none of these problems.

Dr. Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology, which published the study, told CBS News, the reason for this health benefit is "that resveratrol 'flips a switch' for cell metabolism that lets the cells 'breath internally'" -- at least in rats.

If applicable to humans, it would mean that physical inactivity, whether it occurs in a space shuttle, on a couch or at a desk job, would not then harm the body's cells.

The other remaining question is what amount of resveratrol in humans would provide a benefit. In this experiment, the amount of resveratrol the rats received daily is equivalent to much more than the amount in the one or two glasses of wine most people drink in a day.

And, as we all know, have any more than that, and you'll start to have other health problems.

via Popular Science and CBS News

photos: astronaut by NASA via Wikimedia Commons; wine glass by Quinn Dombrowski (originally posted to Flickr as Wine) via Wikimedia Commons

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