Bone metabolism and nutritional status during 30-day head-down-tilt bed rest

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 Nov;113(10):1519-29. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01064.2012. Epub 2012 Sep 20.


Bed rest studies provide an important tool for modeling physiological changes that occur during spaceflight. Markers of bone metabolism and nutritional status were evaluated in 12 subjects (8 men, 4 women; ages 25-49 yr) who participated in a 30-day -6° head-down-tilt diet-controlled bed rest study. Blood and urine samples were collected twice before, once a week during, and twice after bed rest. Data were analyzed using a mixed-effects linear regression with a priori contrasts comparing all days to the second week of the pre-bed rest acclimation period. During bed rest, all urinary markers of bone resorption increased ~20% (P < 0.001), and serum parathyroid hormone decreased ~25% (P < 0.001). Unlike longer (>60 days) bed rest studies, neither markers of oxidative damage nor iron status indexes changed over the 30 days of bed rest. Urinary oxalate excretion decreased ~20% during bed rest (P < 0.001) and correlated inversely with urinary calcium (R = -0.18, P < 0.02). These data provide a broad overview of the biochemistry associated with short-duration bed rest studies and provide an impetus for using shorter studies to save time and costs wherever possible. For some effects related to bone biochemistry, short-duration bed rest will fulfill the scientific requirements to simulate spaceflight, but other effects (antioxidants/oxidative damage, iron status) do not manifest until subjects are in bed longer, in which case longer studies or other analogs may be needed. Regardless, maximizing research funding and opportunities will be critical to enable the next steps in space exploration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Bed Rest* / adverse effects
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Bone Density
  • Bone Remodeling*
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism*
  • Calcium / urine
  • Female
  • Head-Down Tilt*
  • Humans
  • Iron / blood
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Oxalic Acid / urine
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Parathyroid Hormone / blood
  • Space Flight*
  • Time Factors
  • Weightlessness Simulation* / adverse effects


  • Antioxidants
  • Biomarkers
  • PTH protein, human
  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Oxalic Acid
  • Iron
  • Calcium