ISS Science for Everyone
Science Objectives for Everyone
Factors Contributing to Food Acceptability and Consumption, Mood and Stress on Long-Term Space Missions (Astro Palate) studies the relationship among emotions, mood, stress and eating during spaceflight. The study explores ways to minimize stressful aspects of the eating situation so that individuals consume more food and are more satisfied with it. Additionally, the experiment examines ways to use the eating itself to reduce the stress or negative moods that crew members might normally experience in flight.
Science Results for Everyone
The following content was provided by Zata M. Vickers, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
OpNom: Astro Palate
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Zata M. Vickers, Ph.D., University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, United States
Traci L. Mann, Ph.D, Department of Psychology, Minneapolis, MN, United States
Joseph P. Redden, MBA, Ph.D., Marketing Department, Minneapolis, MN, United States
NASA Johnson Space Center, Human Research Program, Houston, TX, United States
Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)
Scientific Discovery, Earth Benefits, Space Exploration
ISS Expedition Duration
- September 2015
The experience of spaceflight is inherently stressful, and individuals’ moods and stress levels are not just nuisance factors that affect their quality of life. Moods and stress also have a significant impact on physical health. Because of this, it is important to take every opportunity to reduce the stress associated with space travel.
The study explores ways to minimize stressful aspects of the eating situation so that individuals consume more food and are more satisfied with it.
Additionally, the experiment examines ways to use the eating itself to reduce the stress or negative moods that crew members might normally experience in flight.
The objective of Part A is to determine whether eliminating the need to choose menu items within a meal will reduce stress and improve mood. Crew members’ stress levels and moods are compared before and after a meal on four days: Day 1 includes the crew member’s choice of menu items for lunch; Day 2 involves the same menu items that the crew member chose for lunch on Day 1; Day 3 involves the crew member’s choice of menu items for lunch; and Day 4 consists of the same menu items that the crew member chose for lunch on Day 3. The changes in measures for days 1 and 3, when the crew members choose their meal components, are compared with the changes in the measures on days 2 and 4, when the crew members do not choose their meal components.
The objective of Part B is the determination of the effects of eating alone, eating with others, or eating on a special occasion, on mood and meal satisfaction. Crew members eat a meal they have preselected for a special occasion on that special occasion day. Crew members also consume this same meal on a second day when they eat it by themselves, and on a third day when they eat it in the company of others. The consumption of food, as well as the satisfaction with the meal, and the change in mood from before, to after, the meal, is compared among the three eating occasions.
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The objectives of Part C are:
1) To determine whether eating foods thought to be capable of improving moods (comfort foods) can improve the moods of crew members in space when they are in negative moods.
2) To determine whether eating comfort foods immediately prior to situations generating negative moods will lessen the impact of those negative moods.
Crew members complete questionnaires about their personal comfort foods, and about the tasks they expect will put them in a negative mood on the ISS. The study on the ISS is conducted on days when the crew members have to do one of the tasks they listed on the pre-flight questionnaire as generally putting them in a negative mood. For objective 1) after doing one of the disliked tasks, participants are directed to eat a snack of one of the comfort foods, one of the neutral foods, or no food. For objective 2) the participants are directed to eat a snack of the other comfort food, or the other neutral food, prior to doing the task. By comparing the pre- and post-task mood ratings and the pre-snack to the post-snack mood ratings, it can be determined whether the type of snack influenced the crew member’s mood, and whether eating the snack was more effective pre-task or post-task.
Space missions are inherently stressful, and stress can have a significant impact on health. Astro Palate determines ways to minimize stress through the use of food. The study also examines the relationship between time spent preparing food, and the acceptability and consumption of the food. This can provide information on decisions about how much time crew members should spend on meal preparation.
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Communal dining, special occasion meals and other food experiences can affect emotions and general moods. Understanding the relationship between meals and emotions can help scientists develop recommendations for eating behaviors that elicit positive emotions. Understanding how specific foods affect stress also helps people choose food items that contribute to their emotional well-being.
Operational Requirements and Protocols
A total of 8 subjects are required for this investigation. Inflight sessions for Part A consist of a meal scheduled on FD90 (±3 days) and a second meal 7 to 14 days later. A third meal is scheduled on FD120 (±3 days) and a fourth meal 7 to 14 days later. Blood pressure and heart rate will be measured during these sessions using the Space Medicine Blood Pressure unit, which displays the BP readings, as well as the heart rate. These measurements along with answers to questionnaires are entered into the data collection form in the Data Collection Tool (DCT). Salivary cortisol is collected using HRF Saliva Session Packs, and is stored in MELFI until return to earth. Inflight sessions for Part B consist of three meals early in the mission (after FD 30) and 3 meals later in the mission (between FD90 and R-30), along with questionnaires using the DCT. Inflight sessions for Part C are scheduled on days that crew members must perform commonly disliked tasks that were identified pre-flight and will be accompanied by questionnaires.
Part A - Menu Choice: Crew members choose food items from the standard on-orbit menu for lunch. Day 1 includes the crew member’s choice of menu items for lunch, with the caveat that there must be at least 2 of each item that they choose that day so a duplicate can be set aside for Day 2. Day 3 consists of the crew member’s choice of menu items for lunch (with the same caveat as for Day 1), and the duplicate items are set aside for Day 4. The crew member eats lunch alone on the days of this study. On Days 1 and 3 the crew member takes an extra package of each of the menu items, labels and stores them until they are retrieved on Days 2 and 4.
The first session is scheduled on FD90 (±3 days), and the second session 7 to 14 days later. The third is scheduled on FD120 (±3 days), and the fourth 7 to 14 days later. By completing the Mood Questionnaire along with the amount of each food eaten, the crew member’s stress levels, moods, consumption, and meal satisfaction can be compared before and after a meal on each of the four days. The questionnaires are accessed via the Data Collection Tool (DCT). Additionally, blood pressure and heart rate are measured using the Space Medicine Blood Pressure unit, which displays the BP readings, as well as the heart rate. The measurements are entered on the data collection form in the DCT. Salivary cortisol is collected prior to eating, and then again 30 minutes after eating, using HRF Saliva Session Packs. They are then stored in MELFI until return to earth.
Part B - Prepackaged Foods: Based on responses to the preflight questionnaire six special meals are prepared for the crew members. The six meals are divided into two sets of three, and all meals in each set are identical. For each set one meal is eaten alone, one with others, and one on a special day (e.g., crew member’s birthday, Super Bowl, etc.) with others. One set of meals is eaten early in the mission (after FD 30), and the other set later in the mission (between FD90 and R-30). Matching meals should not occur more often than once every 11-17 days (i.e., three meals separated by 11-17 days early in the mission, and three meals separated by 11-17 days later in the mission) and the two sets of meals must also be separated by at least 11 to 17 days. The crew member’s mood, meal consumption, and meal satisfaction are compared before, and immediately after, the meal each day. The same questionnaires used for Part A - Menu Choice are used for Part B - Prepackaged Foods.
Part C - Snack Food: This study utilizes negative moods that ‘naturally’ occur in space. During the pre-flight session, crew members list comfort and neutral foods, as well as tasks that they are commonly required to do in flight that they feel put them in a generally negative mood. The study has a flexible schedule (performed any time after FD30 with no more than one session on a single day) and is conducted on days when the crew members have to do one of the tasks that they listed on the pre-flight questionnaire as generally putting them in a negative mood.
For objective 1) after doing one of the disliked tasks, participants are directed to eat a snack of one of the comfort foods, one of the neutral foods, or no food. For objective 2) the participants are directed to eat a snack of the other comfort food, or the other neutral food prior to doing the task. These days should be separated by at least 1 week. On the five days of this study, crew members report their mood using the Mood Questionnaire. Crew members report their moods before the task, after the task, and after eating. Additionally crew members are to complete the consumption/satisfaction questionnaire.
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