Astronauts’ food may float around INSIDE their stomachs

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It’s been nearly 20 years since the first permanent crew was sent to live 250 miles above Earth aboard the International Space Station.

And in that time, scientists have noticed a peculiar trend – astronauts just can’t seem to keep their weight up.


While many have suspected weight loss may just be an inevitable consequence of spaceflight, new research suggests the cause may be something more manageable.

According to the head of NASA’s nutritional biochemistry lab, astronauts’ food may essentially be floating inside them after they eat due to the microgravity conditions – and, this tricks the stomach into thinking it’s full.

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Astronauts keep track of their every meal using an iPad app – but, the expert says they’re often still not eating enough. The issue may boil down to the body’s response to food in the weightless environment. Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata is pictured

Astronauts keep track of their every meal using an iPad app – but, the expert says they’re often still not eating enough. The issue may boil down to the body’s response to food in the weightless environment. Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata is pictured

Figuring out how crews can maintain their body weight has long been a challenge, NASA’s Dr. Scott Smith told Popular Science.

Doing this not only requires eating enough food, but a rigorous exercise regime to keep their muscles working.

Astronauts keep track of their every meal using an iPad app – but, despite their self-reported intake, and insistence of feeling ‘fine,’ the expert says they’re often still not eating enough.

The issue may boil down to the body’s response to food in the weightless environment.

‘I think it’s that food doesn’t settle the same way it does on Earth, so that the stretching of your stomach – which sends the signal to your brain to say “you’re full, stop eating” – I think that gets triggered faster in weightlessness than it does on Earth,’ Smith told Popular Science.

According to the head of NASA’s nutritional biochemistry lab, astronauts’ food may essentially be floating inside them after they eat due to the microgravity conditions – and, this tricks the stomach into thinking it’s full. NASA's Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornieko are pictured

According to the head of NASA’s nutritional biochemistry lab, astronauts’ food may essentially be floating inside them after they eat due to the microgravity conditions – and, this tricks the stomach into thinking it’s full. NASA's Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornieko are pictured

According to the head of NASA’s nutritional biochemistry lab, astronauts’ food may essentially be floating inside them after they eat due to the microgravity conditions – and, this tricks the stomach into thinking it’s full. NASA’s Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornieko are pictured

‘We tell crew members all the time, you need to be getting enough to eat,’ Smith said.

‘If you think you’re eating enough and we’re telling you you’re not, or the app is telling you that you’re not getting enough calories, you need to push more in.

‘Even though your brain is telling you you’re full you have to keep going.’

The human body experiences all sorts of strange phenomena as a result of microgravity – most of which scientists are still working to understand.

Results from NASA’s Twins Study have begun to offer a deeper look into the complex processes.

It’s been nearly 20 years since the first permanent crew was sent to live 250 miles above Earth aboard the ISS. And, scientists have noticed a peculiar trend – astronauts just can’t seem to keep their weight up. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, Expedition 36 flight engineer, is pictured

It’s been nearly 20 years since the first permanent crew was sent to live 250 miles above Earth aboard the ISS. And, scientists have noticed a peculiar trend – astronauts just can’t seem to keep their weight up. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, Expedition 36 flight engineer, is pictured

It’s been nearly 20 years since the first permanent crew was sent to live 250 miles above Earth aboard the ISS. And, scientists have noticed a peculiar trend – astronauts just can’t seem to keep their weight up. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, Expedition 36 flight engineer, is pictured

The study tracked the changes seen in now-retired astronaut Scott Kelly, who lived aboard the ISS for 340 days, compared with his twin brother, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who remained home during that same period.

And, preliminary results suggest the body responds immediately to the space environment, with gene expression acting ‘like fireworks taking off’ to switch thousands of genes on and off.

A separate study conducted on Russian cosmonauts revealed that space flight causes the immune system to ‘turn on all possible defense systems’ in the face of the unfamiliar threat, leading to significant changes all throughout the human body, from the organs down to the tissues and cells.

Scientists also know spaceflight affects astronauts’ muscles and bones.

But, just how this plays out is not entirely clear yet.

A recent simulation by the VCU School of Engineering revealed radiation alone may not have an effect on muscle loss; it does, however, amplify the negative effects on the bones.

It does, however, make the bone more sensitive to the effects of microgravity.





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