Mars500: Scientific protocols

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid and psychological wellness during long-duration space missions

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are fats normally found in our body and cells with important biological functions, the absence of which can cause such conditions as inflammation or depression. A good balance between these fats (namely omega-3 and omega-6) is suggested as part of a healthy diet, or during illness. Fish consumption more than 3 times a week is suggested or in some cases the use of supplements. It as been reported that omega-3 may play a role in nervous system activity improving cognitive development and learning.

Low dietary intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids has been linked to several characteristics of psychiatric symptomology, including depression, disorders of impulse control, and hostility. Preliminary intervention trials with omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for clinical depression and other disorders have reported benefits. The effects on depression have led to the conclusion that Omega-3 might affect not only cognitive functions, but also mood and emotional states and may act as a mood stabilizer.

The aim of this study is to examine the level omega-3 fats in the blood of subjects during long time confinement, in order to suggest a supplement that might enhance psychological wellbeing, and counteract depression and mood instability, which could occur in these situations and thus affect an astronaut’s performance.

Blood samples will be analyzed for fatty acid profiles during the study. This data will be correlated with psychological measures and stress hormones levels, also scheduled to be taken during the study.

Science Team: Bruno Berra (IT) et al.

Last update: 26 February 2009

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