Could red wine help power a mission to Mars?

A compound commonly found in red wine could help astronauts on a space mission to Mars, suggests a new study.

Astronauts may be able to use resveratrol, an antioxidant compound found in the skins of red wine grapes, to help them maintain bone and muscle mass on Mars.

A daily dose of resveratrol could help the human body cope with Mars’ partial gravity, says an initial study published by Frontiers in Physiology journal this month.

Its research comes as the world marks 50 years since Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the Moon, with NASA working on plans to send humans back to the lunar surface and on to Mars after that.

First growth on Mars?

However, it’s unlikely that astronauts will be loading up their space shuttle with Château Angélus or Romanée-Conti for a daily toast on the red planet – although it wouldn’t be the first time a top-tier French wine had been to space.

Previous research suggested that a resveratrol dose would probably only be high enough to affect human health if taken in supplement form.

One would have to drink somewhere between 505 litres and 2,762 litres of red wine to obtain 1g of resveratrol per day, estimated a 2016 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Advances in Nutrition.

That would likely bring new challenges to astronauts’ ability to perform tasks on Mars.

The Advances in Nutrition study did add that its figures were based on levels of ‘unbound’ resveratrol in red wine, adding that there might be ways to unlock more of the compound. This aspect was poorly understood, it said.

More study needed

Researchers in the Frontiers study subjected rats to conditions similar to Martian gravity and gave them 150mg of resveratrol per kg of body weight, mixed into a sugar and water solution.

While it found some evidence that resveratrol could help maintain muscle mass in Mars-like conditions, it recommended further research, particularly around dosage and any associated risks.


Full citation: Mortreux M, Riveros D, Bouxsein ML and Rutkove SB (2019) A Moderate Daily Dose of Resveratrol Mitigates Muscle Deconditioning in a Martian Gravity Analog. Front. Physiol. 10:899. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00899


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