Worrying Discovery Shows Space Harms Astronauts’ Bones

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An alarming new study has found that spending months in space can lead to bone loss equivalent to two decades for astronauts.

The study, published in Scientific Reports , explains how researchers from Canada’s University of Calgary made this disturbing discovery and offers a potential solution to a problem that could become much more prevalent as more civilians begin to travel in space.

Following 17 mostly male astronauts, with an average age of 47, who traveled in space for four to seven months, Calgary exercise specialist Leigh Gabel and her team used a scanner very high definition 3D bone samples at various times before and after their spaceflights to measure the strength and density of their bones.

They found that the loss of bone density was most severe in astronauts who spent more than six months in space, and those who spent fewer months in space were able to regain about half their strength and of their bone density after returning to dry land for six months.

Although it has long been known that spending more than a month in space results in bone loss , this study quantifies the extent of bone loss experienced by astronauts relative to their lifespan on Earth and also examines how their bones regenerate after returning to Earth.

In interviews with Science News, the researchers behind the study also highlighted a key way to prevent bone loss or strengthen astronauts’ bones in space: good old fashioned strength training.

“The bones are alive and active,” Ms. Gabel told the magazine, “and they’re constantly remodeling.”

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