Washington: Astronauts who have to spend their space journey on a strict diet regime may soon have the liberty have enjoying a glass or two of red wine, as it may be good for their health, scientists say.

Researchers at the University of Strasbourg in France found that red wine, which contains several health beneficial antioxidants, could help prevent the ill effects of prolonged weightlessness on the human body.

According to the researchers, one of the ingredients in red wine, called resveratrol, has shown promise protecting against the bone density loss and insulin resistance that can be side effects of flying in space, a website reported.

The finding is based on a study of rats held upside down by their hind limbs and tails to simulate weightlessness. The rats fed resveratrol did not develop the adverse symptoms of the other group.

"For the first time, we report a simple countermeasure that prevents the deleterious adaptations of the major physiological functions affected by mechanical unloading," the researchers, led by Iman Momken, wrote in a paper published in the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Resveratrol "could thus be envisaged as a nutritional countermeasure for spaceflight but remains to be tested in humans," the scientists wrote.

The researchers said their findings could apply not just to astronauts but to sedentary people on the ground, too, who can experience some of these problems simply from not moving around enough.

"There are overwhelming data showing that the human body needs physical activity, but for some of us, getting that activity isn't easy," Dr Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of the journal, said in a statement.

"A low gravity environment makes it nearly impossible for astronauts. For the earthbound, barriers to physical activity are equally challenging, whether they be disease, injury, or a desk job.

"Resveratrol may not be a substitute for exercise, but it could slow deterioration until someone can get moving again."
But despite the health benefits, NASA may be a tough sell on giving astronauts wine while on duty. NASA regulations forbid astronauts to drink alcohol during spaceflights or within 12 hours of launch time.

While NASA has found that strenuous exercise on special machines on the shuttle and International Space Station help mitigate the worst effects of weightlessness so far, missions to more distant bodies would require humans to be in space for longer periods of time.

"Each of these adaptations could turn to serious health deterioration during the long-term spaceflight needed for planetary exploration," Momken and colleagues wrote.

In those cases, a supplement of resveratrol -- or, you know, a glass of wine -- just might prove beneficial.

(Agencies)