Variety and quality
Variety and quality of food is a factor that can impact the wellness and mood of the crew and thus affect performance. In almost all cases returning astronauts say that the diversity and quality of space food could be improved. Variety is an important factor in preventing boredom of food, which is a risk with standardized meals preserved by a dehydration process. Food boredom can lead to lack of appetite and weight loss. Quality is essential for the nutritional value and composition in essentials nutrients like vitamins and minerals, storage life and microbiological safety. In addition, investigations are performed to evaluate the possible role of food composition and concentration in essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals like calcium in muscle and bone loss (SOLO, ENERGY). This might lead to the development of specific food complements for spaceflight.
Digestion and assimilation
Microgravity itself can perturb digestive and motility processes possibly leading to constipation, gastrointestinal problems and lack of appetite. In this regard the development of a technology for spacefood, easing food assimilation in weightlessness could well be beneficial to health for bedridden subject who presents syndromes of deterioration and weight loss somehow similar to the one seen in astronauts. Digestive problems might also account for astronauts low energy intake. Energy and nutritional quality of food intake is indeed studied (ENERGY) because it is thought that the astronauts energy intake only represents 60 to 70% of the recommended daily amount.
Research & Development
Research on nutrition focuses on the assimilation of calcium, and other essential nutrients. The precise determination of individual astronaut food intake is also an important milestone. Therefore the development of appropriate varied and appealing space food is required by industry ( MEDIET). Essential factors to evaluate for the development of new space food are: convenience in preparation, convenience in assimilation, appealing, composition. Human exploration of Mars will also require that the crew carry on enough food reserve or food-producing capacity for about 18 months. The development of new technologies in the field of in-space food production is addressed in the ESA strategy for the development of Advanced Life Support Systems, part of the AURORA programme.
Health related topics: nutrition, weight-loss, sodium balance, anorexia.
Last update: 16 January 2008