NASA astronauts Scott Kelly (right) and Kjell Lindgren (center) with JAXA’s Kimiya Yui snacking on freshly harvested red romaine lettuce as part of an experiment. Photo/NASA TV/SPACE
The diet for astronauts living on the International Space Station (ISS) is designed to provide a complete nutritional diet. The diet is improved with larger portions, a greater variety of fruits and vegetables, and more fish.
Include a diet rich in tomatoes and other rations rich in important nutrients such as flavonoids and omega-3 fatty acids. The researchers investigated the different effects of this enhanced diet on six female astronauts and 10 male astronauts on the ISS and in outer space.
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The 16 individuals each ate one diet and the others took part in a 45-day mission in an enclosed, Earth-based space designed to mimic a space environment. Scientists found that volunteers with an enhanced diet had lower levels of cholesterol and the stress hormone cortisol.
They also performed better with speed, accuracy and attention in simple video games designed to test their mental performance. Additionally, the gut microbiome, the microbes that naturally live in the digestive tract, remains more diverse and richer, a sign of good health.
“We demonstrated the benefits associated with this diet in less than 45 days, which shows how important diet is for astronaut health and performance. Moreover, astronauts have to perform at very high cognitive and physical levels,” said Grace Douglas, food scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, to Space.com, Tuesday (31/1/2023).
A nutritious diet and regular exercise can help astronauts overcome these health challenges, but space missions are severely limited in weight. However, the challenge is that all food for astronauts in space must be processed so that it has stability at room temperature.
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“The goal is to be able to last a long time at room temperature without being damaged. Though most healthy fruits and vegetables are not consumed in this way. The goal of this simulation is for us to be able to develop a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that are compatible with space flight,” said Douglas.
NASA is interested in finding ways to reduce the mass of food. Because, with a lighter weight can carry more amount of food into space. “Carrying more food is useful for supporting the health and performance of astronauts, especially on missions far from Earth and for longer periods of time,” said Douglas.