Astronauts Need a Better Diet, Scientists Say

European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti prepares a meal on the ISS on December 8, 2014.

European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti prepares a meal on the ISS on December 8, 2014.
Photo: NASA

Long stays on the International Space Station take their toll on the human body, but it doesn’t help that the food there is limited by what can reasonably be sent and stored in space. To improve conditions for astronauts, a team of scientists devised and tested a space-specific meal plan that yielded noticeable health and performance benefits.

ISS, orbiting Hundreds of miles above Earth, there are no sophisticated kitchens or elaborate meals. It costs a lot of money to transport food into space. It should be stored as compactly as possible.

a Standard spaceflight food Purpose of the ISS to recreate a healthy diet back home, but research A paper published today in Scientific Reports suggests that astronauts may benefit from a “fortified” diet specific to the space environment.beyond the ordinary HealingEyes and performance benefits, Upgraded, fruit- When vegetable-pack diet may reduce the harmful effects specific to According to researchers, it works in space. Grace Douglas of the Human Health and Performance Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center said: team.

T.he studies with purpose evaluation Impact of fortified diet actually before Test in space. To simulate the space environment, Douglas and her colleagues conducted experiments in her NASA laboratory. human exploration research analog (Hera) Habitat. 16 Participants worked in groups of four and were confined to a space flight simulation chamber for 45 days. The 10 6 men and women in their 30s to 50s They received prior training on how to record their daily dietary intake, collect biological samples, and perform cognitive tests.

In addition to conditions such as limited space, the food was pre-packaged and made to be shelf-stable, just like it is on the ISS. Individuals ate either a fortified diet or a standard diet, the latter serving as a control group.

good. Foods in the new study included shrimp cocktail, butternut squash, and braised red cabbage. Freeze-dried foods were rehydrated before eating.

good. Foods in the new study include shrimp cocktail, butternut squash, and stewed red cabbage. Freeze-dried foods were rehydrated before eating.
Photo: NASA

A fortified diet includes:Not only is the number of n servings increased, A greater variety of fruits and vegetables, more fish, and additional sources of flavonoids and omega-3 fatty acids compared to the standard menu. Participants consumed at least 6 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. I ate about 2-3 servings of fish each week, in addition to other healthy foods. Over the course of her simulated 45-day mission, each participant provided urine, saliva, blood, and stool samples, and also completed cognitive tests.

Interestingly, participants in both groups lost some weightBut for those With the fortified diet, they experienced several discernible benefits. Improved relevant nutrient intakes and improved microbiome stability [i.e. microbial gut health]…compared to subjects on a standard diet,” the scientist wrote in the study. More specifically, this includes lower levels of cholesterol and cortisol (the latter suggest stress relief) Increase cognitive speed, accuracy and attention.

“This study provides evidence that fortifying the spaceflight diet early in a mission improves health and cognitive performance,” the researchers argue. They added that the study “provides important ground-based baseline data” and compared it with spaceflight data associated with “additional stressors” such as microgravity and increased radiation exposure. That said, future research is needed to better evaluate the fortified diet as a potential countermeasure against these harmful substances. effect, the scientist said.

i like this research But it feels incomplete. The obvious limitation is that the participants consumed these foods on Earth, rather than in their intended environment in space.A wise next step would be to replicate this 45-day study of his in space, and cortisol Pay attention to potential differences such as level. Working in space is likely to be much more stressful than spending time inside HERA. Also, 45 days is a bucket drop compared to real long-term missions that typically last 6 months. I would like to know how the enhanced diet works in a longer and more relevant time frame.

A larger sample size would also be good, including more women, individuals with different dietary needs and restrictions, medical conditions (such as diabetes), different types of weight, and people taking certain medications. Acknowledging the small sample size, the researchers said their approach still “provided important insight into the effects of the full spaceflight diet.”

Related: The impact of life in space on men’s and women’s health is very different

These concerns aside, this paper provides a better understanding of the foods astronauts need to stay healthy, energetic and productive. And as researchers point out, food may even protect the crew from the ravages of space.

“Food is one potential measure that should definitely be included in future exploration-class space missions to enable safe exploration well beyond low-Earth orbit,” the researchers wrote. In fact, it’s important to think about this now that space is becoming more and more accessible, whether it’s a trip around the Moon, an expedition to Mars, or a stay on a private space station.

more: Astronauts could suffer 10 years of bone loss while in space for months, new study suggests

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