“When we seemed intently on the challenges surrounding meals in area, the very first thing that turned obvious and a bit startling when contemplating the mission to Mars is that even when we had the rocket, the touchdown and the gear in place, we nonetheless couldn’t go now as a result of we don’t have meals that may get us there and again,” stated John Frostad, Ph.D., assistant professor in chemical and organic engineering at UBC.
Dr. Frostad and his workforce are making use of interfacial and meals science experience to increase the two-year shelf lifetime of flaxseed oil to as much as seven years by microencapsulation expertise.
Microencapsulation: A large leap for area diet?
As the human physique can’t produce omega-3s naturally, they should be consumed in meals like fish and flaxseed or usually by dietary dietary supplements to succeed in beneficial each day dosage. The polyunsaturated fat are thought of important to cardiovascular and nervous system well being, and NASA-sponsored research have discovered that omega-3s present in fish oil may also counteract the negative effects of spaceflight on bone, muscle and immune operate and doubtlessly radiation.
“For astronauts and others on area missions, the troublesome half is guaranteeing that omega-3 stays contemporary and viable in no matter type—capsules or liquid—it’s saved in,” Dr. Frostad defined. “We must create barrier to guard from degradation and make one thing your physique can digest.”
In the Frostad lab, the workforce is exploring embedding omega-3 droplets in quinoa starch that may very well be blended into smoothies. Another contender is microencapsulation inside cellulose nanocrystals to stabilize mixtures of oil and water to be used in emulsions.
“We are simply getting off the bottom – it’s nonetheless within the analysis part to show a expertise,” Dr. Frostad stated. “Even if I may offer you this powder proper now, it’s not the total package deal. There are all of the water-soluble nutritional vitamins as properly.”
He added that the one actual long-term resolution is to develop meals in area however that reaching shelf-life extension may present dietary shops in instances of crop shortages.
Making it to Mars and again: Nutrition as gas
The size of the voyage to Mars and the time ready for the switch window to return residence may properly exceed the present viability of vitamins in meals and dietary dietary supplements. Meanwhile, spaceflight has critical results on the physique’s techniques which can be offset by satisfactory diet and train whereas in orbit.
“Some are extra regarding than others – bone and muscle loss, cardiovascular decondition, adjustments to the eyes and immune system operate, to call a couple of,” stated Scott Smith, Ph.D., nutritionist and supervisor for dietary biochemistry at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “Cognition, efficiency and morale may also be affected on long-duration missions, the place isolation and distance from Earth is larger.”
Dr. Smith has been working with the Nutritional Biochemistry Lab since 1992 to decide the variety of energy, nutritional vitamins and vitamins wanted to take care of optimum well being in area. One of the most important challenges is ensuring area vacationers get sufficient to eat, significantly since weightlessness is believed to make them really feel full prematurely.
“Getting sufficient energy is a key first step, and customarily, all the opposite vitamins will comply with alongside if they’re consuming sufficient,” he defined. “We proceed to work to know how the physique adapts, how diet can finest defend astronaut well being and to outline necessities for longer and longer area missions with extra stressors resembling radiation publicity that would have an effect on nutrient necessities.”
NASA has outlined the dietary necessities for missions to the area station and the Artemis missions to the moon, however Dr. Smith stated that there’s extra work to be finished to outline wants for longer stays in area.
“Shelf life is a significant subject for a Mars mission, which remains to be being addressed,” he famous. “The workforce of parents over within the Space Food Systems Lab have the troublesome job of growing meals techniques which meet the necessities we outline, whereas additionally having to satisfy the constraints placed on them by the area atmosphere.”
Astronauts at present complement Vitamin D to guard bone mineral density and counteract the shortage of solar publicity in area. The Nutritional Biochemistry Lab can also be exploring dietary interventions to handle visible impairment recognized in some astronauts throughout and after long-duration spaceflight.
“We’re about to start a examine to see if B vitamin dietary supplements can override the impact of genetics and mitigate or forestall this from taking place in in danger people,” Dr. Smith added. “While that is extra within the realm of ‘personalised diet’, it may very well be a case for diet as a focused countermeasure, and one that may have significance for the final inhabitants, too.”
Back on earth
While NASA doesn’t plan to launch astronauts to Mars till the late 2030s or early 2040s, shelf-life extension by microencapsulation could have extra imminent sensible purposes again on earth.
“Increased shelf life has clear benefits for shoppers who can safely retailer meals longer in addition to grocery shops that may inventory merchandise longer,” stated Dr. Frostad. “The present struggle in Ukraine has actually shaken provide chains for a lot of objects, so merchandise with longer shelf lives may assist reduce the unfavorable impacts of such occasions sooner or later.”
The Frostad analysis workforce’s work is funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada grant and developed in collaboration with substances producer Ingredion.