According to the findings of startling new research, astronauts who spend months in space may suffer bone loss that is comparable to that which would occur over the course of 2 decades.
In a report published in Scientific Reports, researchers from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, describe how they uncovered a concerning finding and provide a solution that might have far-reaching consequences as more and more ordinary people take space trips.
Calgary fitness scientist Leigh Gabel and her colleagues monitored 17 predominantly male astronauts (aged around 47) before and during their missions, scanning their skeletons with a high-definition 3D bone scanner at many time periods to assess the astronauts’ bone strength and density.
Bone density loss was shown to be greatest for astronauts who spent more than six months in space. In contrast, those who spent less time in space were able to restore almost half of their skeletal densities and strength after being back on Earth for half a year.
While it has been known for some time that astronauts who spend more than a month in space endure bone loss. This research is the first to quantify that loss in the context of terrestrial lifespans and examine how astronauts’ bones recover once they return home.
In talks with Science News, the researchers who were responsible for the study highlighted another essential method to prevent bone loss or bone strength when astronauts are in space. This method is the age-old practice of weightlifting.
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