Would lower gravity make a person live longer?
In the science fiction book "2061: odyssey three" (written by Arthur C. Clarke) Heywood Floyd is in a space hospital with 1:6th of gravity compared to earth. He is 103 years old and appears to be in his 60s, he is in the space hospital for nearly 50 years (also 5 years halted his aging because he was in cryogenic hibernation mostly from 2010-2015). Could low gravity make a person live longer? Or is this just science fiction nonsense?
- SciencenutLv 71 month ago
I am an MD. My answer is, probably not.
When I was in middle school, my parents allowed me to get and keep a pair of gerbils, which are desert rodents. I kept them for over 5 years, and it was a very interesting experience. After 4-5 years, they developed arthritis, grey hair on their faces, and cataracts in their eyes to the point of blindness. Not long after that, they died of natural causes, with the male dying first, and the female dying less than a year later. I thought to myself, what the heck is going on? Their cells are no different from my human cells, yet I did not die of old age at age 5-6 years old(!). The fact is, old age is preprogrammed into our cells on purpose, it seems. And gravity has little if anything to do with this. Elizabeth's answer about our telomeres is true and is part of the aging process. However, much of the aging process is still unknown, and is the subject of much research. And there is a rare genetic disease called "progeria" which causes humans to age around five times quicker, thus reaching advanced old age in one's teenage years. Maybe further research will figure all of this out in the coming decades. It is fun to think about.
- 1 month ago
Cryogenic hibernation is fact, here, now. The only problem is that noone has figured out how to safely come out of such hibernation, yet.
- MarkLv 71 month ago
LOWER gravity will, especially people with heart problems, but MICROGRAVITY will definitely not. Either way, if you're off Earth for more than two years, you can never go back.
- davidLv 41 month ago
No, but Clarke, et. al. got it wrong. Outer space gets you further from gravity. The further from gravity, the faster the perception of time.
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- Anonymous1 month ago
I live on Uranus, and I'm pretty old.
- RaymondLv 71 month ago
He also writes (on the same pages) that hibernation actually reverses the aging process (we know this is not true).
At the time he wrote the story (1980s), there was not much known about the effects of no-gravity (or low-gravity) on the human body. Therefore, it was easy to imagine a situation where lack of gravity would help a body heal faster (less stress on the joints, for example) without worrying about the loss of tonus, especially in the bones. Even with specific targetted exercise, astronauts on extended stay in space end up with weaker bones and atrophied muscles.
The part that annoyed me more than the science-fiction-scheme of accepting that low gravity leads to better health, is the concept that cryogenic hibernation is a convenient method to keep someone alive (or, rather, not-yet-dead) until proper medical care is available.
"If there's any problem he can't cope with, he can put you into hibernation again and ship you back to us, C.O.D." [page 4]Source(s): Arthur C. Clarke. "2061: odyssey three" Del Rey (Ballantine Books) ISBN=0-345-35879-1
- ElizabethLv 71 month ago
No, unfortunately not.
When your cells divide, telomeres get shorter. As they get shorter, you become more susceptible to chromosome (ie genetic) damage. This is one of the 'scientific' explanations for aging. In zero gravity we know that they actually get longer which, on the face of it, suggests that you age less quickly.
But the problem is our bodies have evolved to deal with gravity. So any benefit due to telomere lengthening is completely negated by other effects. Your heart gets weaker which makes blood clots more likely. Without weight, your bones get weaker and more brittle. In fact, you start to urinate out the calcium in them. Astronauts lose about 20% of their muscle mass in just two weeks.
And that doesn't include the mental health aspects living in a confined environment or the relatively high levels of radiation from the solar wind you'd be exposed to.
On the plus side, you'd be living in a sterile environment with no real threat from bacteria or viruses to make you sick.
The upshot is you'd be pretty unhealthy if you remained in zero g too long. And that would shorten not extend your life.
- UserLv 71 month ago
I like both of the previous answers.
When Clarke wrote that book there was - theoretically - the possibility that low gravity MIGHT have a life-extending affect on people.
(Note: there was already evidence concerning negative medical effects of extended living in low gravity, but such evidence was fairly limited.)
Since then we have a significant space station with significant "living in space" time and have a much more medical data and a much more thorough understanding of the medical effects
most of them are pretty bad
there are several.
- PLv 71 month ago
This has been studied extensively at least with zero gravity and the short answer is no, it actually shortens your life. Our bodies have evolved around gravity and things start to severely atrophy the longer it's exposed to zero gravity. That said we have very little exposure to specifically "low but not zero gravity" and like a lot of things done in moderation it may have certain benefits for specific health conditions, but we just don't have the current ability to expose humans to the long term effects of a lower gravity (not zero) environment to see what happens.
- billrussell42Lv 71 month ago
probably false, but no one knows at this point.