A year-long space trip could age you by up to a decade
Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 07 August 2022, at 10:49 am Los Angeles time
Space travel, as exciting as it sounds, comes with a lot of health risks due to weightlessness and radiation exposure. One of the most prominent effects of long-term space habitats is bone loss, something that NASA studies quite closely.
New research now claims that living in space can also accelerate the aging process of bones. Published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, the study was carried out by Anna-Maria Liphardt, sports researcher at the Friedrich Alexander University (Erlangen-Nuremberg), in collaboration with experts from Canada, Germany, and the United States.
In this long-term investigation, 14 male and 3 female astronauts underwent an evaluation of the bone density and strength of the tibia and radius after returning from long-duration missions.
It found that even 12 months after returning from space, more than half of the astronauts had a 2% reduction in bone strength and mineral density. That number might not seem significant, but, in Liphardt's words, it "corresponds to at least a decade of age-related bone loss." Some of the astronauts examined in the research already had irreversible damage.
The longer a space mission lasts, the greater the chance that lost density and resistance cannot be recovered. In the research paper, spaceflight-induced bone loss was described as a similar phenomenon to age-related bone loss, although it occurs at a much faster rate. However, the pattern of bone loss in space and the region of the body where it occurs differs from the natural aging process on Earth.