Back in the 1960s, my father worked on the Apollo Moon Landing. Which was exciting in a lot of ways. But one particularly thrilling event happened on Christmas Eve 1968.
This date marked the famous “Earthrise” photo from Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the moon (commanded by astronaut Frank Borman). Of course, the year 1968 had been a difficult and trying time for our country. But this historic occasion gave us all a reason to come together and rejoice at the end of the year.
This event also had a profound impact on my career goals. During the early 1970s, I served as a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy and majored in life sciences, with the goal of becoming an astronaut. But I realized going to medical school first might confer an additional skill for space exploration.
I didn’t forget my astronaut aspirations. As a new grad student, I worked on analytical chemistry, developing instruments used by NASA for the Skylab and Space Shuttle programs.
(We use these same kinds of tools today to help formulate and quality check my Smart Science Nutritionals dietary supplements line. Head over to my website, www.DrMicozzi.com, and browse the “shop” tab to learn more!)
Needless to say, I had, and still have, a fondness for the space agency. In fact, NASA may be the only agency in the federal government these days to show signs of “intelligent life in the universe,” as we used to say.
Research and development for NASA manned spaceflight programs has led to technological advances and achievements in other scientific fields as well—including diet, health, and nutrition.
The key antioxidant that keeps astronauts healthy
One of the key lessons of the manned space flight program was that the human body is built to work best with the force of gravity grounding us.
Dr. John DeWitt, a NASA biochemist, recently told CNN: “Force is what helps our muscles get stronger; force is what helps our bones to stay strong; force is what helps our heart to stay strong by pumping the blood against gravity. So, when you take that force away, you all of a sudden lose a really important stimulus that’s important for health.”1
Now, going to the moon is one thing, but astronauts on a mission to Mars could spend six to nine months on a spacecraft in zero gravity. Research on astronauts who lived for six months on the International Space Station orbiting the Earth found that they experience muscle atrophy and loss or weakening of bone.
And because floating in space requires little effort from the heart, astronauts lose blood volume and experience heart deconditioning. They also have a weakened immune system and insulin resistance. Plus, astronauts in their late 40s and 50s experience alterations in eyesight. In fact, some have even needed to wear eyeglasses in flight.
However, a recent study found that an antioxidant in blueberries, grape skins, and red wine may hold answers to physical conditioning during long spaceflights and in low-gravity conditions.2
Of course, most of my readers aren’t going to rocket off to Mars or the International Space Station. But we’re all susceptible to all of the health issues listed above, which is why I’m telling you about this new study.
After all, if red wine and blueberries can help keep astronauts strong and healthy at zero gravity, imagine what they can do for you here on Earth.
Keep your bones and muscles healthy with these two drinks
Researchers conducted experiments on rats in simulated low-gravity conditions. They found that reduced gravity led to a loss of grip, muscle weight, calf circumference, and slow-twitch muscle fiber.
But in the rats given the red wine/blueberry antioxidant, researchers observed that bone and muscle mass was preserved.
Given this, researchers believe the antioxidant works to promote muscle growth by increasing insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake in muscle fibers.
Fortunately, you can get all the benefits of this gravity-defying nutrient right here on Earth. Just drink a glass or two of red wine a day, as I discussed on page 2. Or mix blueberry powdered extract in water for a healthy and tasty quaff. I recommend 400-500 mg daily.
Of course, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t also enjoy fresh blueberries when they’re in season!
2“A Moderate Daily Dose of Resveratrol Mitigates Muscle Deconditioning in a Martian Gravity Analog.” Front Physiol. 2019 Jul 18;10:899.