Brittle Bones of a Jedi Master

After leading the fight against the Galactic Alliance, Luke Skywalker might have found himself with a developed case of osteoporosis and kidney stones. That’s because space travel diminishes bone loss and a rise of calcium in the blood, according to NASA researchers (Hullander & Barry, 2001). The reason for the bone loss is weightlessness.

When the body is weightless (or immobile), bone cells act differently. The International Osteoporosis Foundation states that astronauts and bedridden patients share a state in which they “can lose up to 15% of mineral density within three months” (Sochaczewski, 2006). According to NASA, the weightlessness upsets the balance of bone-building to bone destroying (Hullander & Barry, 2001.) Thirty million people on Earth who suffer from osteoporosis in the U.S.A. happen to be going through the same demineralization of the bone, although slower (Tortora & Derrikson, 2006, p. 189). The key to prevent osteoporosis on land and in space appears to be continual weight-bearing exercise on the body.

Once safe on the forest moon Endor, Luke should perform plenty of squats or he might begin to look more like Yoda.

References

Hullander, D. & Barry, P.L. (2001). Space Bones. Science and Nasa [Web site]. http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2001/ast01oct_1.htm.

Sochaczewski, (2006, May 31). What’s the link between astronauts and osteoporosis. International Osteoporosis Foundation: Bone research in space symposium, June 2, IOF World Congress on Osteoporosis. Retrieved Sept. 18, 2008 from http://www.iofbonehealth.org/wco/2006/downloads/pre_congress_whats_the_link_between.pdf.

Tortora, G.J., & Derrikson, B. (2006). Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, 11th ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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