Monday, January 30, 2023
HomeHealth & FitnessMicroencapsulation research sets sights on extending nutrition in space

Microencapsulation research sets sights on extending nutrition in space

“When we looked closely at the challenges surrounding food in space, the first thing that became apparent and a bit startling when considering the mission to Mars is that even if we had the rocket, the landing and the equipment in place, we still couldn’t go now because we don’t have food that can get us there and back,”​ said John Frostad, Ph.D., assistant professor in chemical and biological engineering at UBC.

Dr. Frostad and his team are applying interfacial and food science expertise to extend the two-year shelf life of flaxseed oil to up to seven years through microencapsulation technology.

Microencapsulation: A giant leap for space nutrition?

As the human body cannot produce omega-3s naturally, they must be consumed in foods like fish and flaxseed or often through dietary supplements to reach recommended daily dosage. The polyunsaturated fats are considered essential to cardiovascular and nervous system health, and NASA-sponsored studies have found that omega-3s found in fish oil may also counteract the negative effects​ of spaceflight on bone, muscle and immune function and potentially radiation.

“For astronauts and others on space missions, the difficult part is ensuring that omega-3 stays fresh and viable in whatever form—capsules or liquid—it is stored in,”​ Dr. Frostad explained. “We have to create a good barrier to protect from degradation and make something your body can digest.”

In the Frostad lab, the team is exploring embedding omega-3 droplets in quinoa starch that could be blended into smoothies. Another contender is microencapsulation within cellulose nanocrystals to stabilize mixtures of oil and water for use in emulsions. 

Abdullah Anaman
Abdullah Anaman
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