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Assessment of Nutrient Stability in Foods from the Space Food System After Long-Duration Spaceflight on the ISS



ABSTRACT:  Maintaining an intact nutrient supply in the food system flown on spacecraft is a critical issue for mission success and crew health. Ground-based evidence indicates that some vitamins may be altered and fatty acids oxidized (and therefore rendered useless, or even dangerous) by long-term storage and by exposure to radiation, both of which will be issues for long-duration exploration missions in space. In this study, the stability of nutrients was investigated in food samples exposed to spaceflight on the Intl. Space Station (ISS). A total of 6 replicates of 5 different space food items, a multivitamin, and a vitamin D supplement were packaged into 4 identical kits and were launched in 2006 on the space shuttle. After 13, 353, 596, and 880 d of spaceflight aboard the ISS, the kits were returned to Earth. Nine replicates of each food item and vitamin, from the same lots as those sent into space, remained in an environmental chamber on Earth to serve as controls at each time point. Vitamins, hexanal, oxygen radical absorbance capacity, and amino acids were measured in identical-lot food samples at each time point. After 596 d of spaceflight, differences in intact vitamin concentrations due to duration of storage were observed for most foodstuffs, but generally, nutrients from flight samples did not degrade any faster than ground controls. This study provided the 1st set of spaceflight data for investigation of nutrient stability in the food system, and the results will help NASA design food systems for both ISS and space exploration missions.