Perhaps, future space travelers will stick to a keto diet, which is based on fats instead of carbohydrates.
Stephen Phinney, a nutritional biochemist and chief medical officer at type 2 diabetes-reversal company Virta Health, has been studying nutrition and particularly ketosis for decades. He found that it would be easier for some people to succeed in extreme endurance pursuits if they carried lots of fuel in their bodies, as the keto diet allows, rather than in their bags.
«It’s going to cost a heck of a lot less to send people [to Mars] on a ketogenic diet,» Phinney said at the annual Food and Nutrition Conference at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on Sunday in Philadelphia.
The keto diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that forces the body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates for energy. This approach is controversial among nutritionists and athletes, who are usually advised to eat carbohydrates.
Phinney cited several examples of athletes breaking records after switching to the keto diet, saying that they did not have to carry carbs in the form of buns and bananas.
In his opinion, space travelers can also benefit from this.
Research results show that the keto diet is at least no worse than a higher-carb eating plan for some athletes.
Phinney and his colleague Louise Burke, a sports dietitian, believe that there is much work to be done to understand how the keto diet affects different people. The general conclusion is that any diet can be followed in good and bad forms. Lots of vegetables and healthy fats are good. A menu filled with ‘fat bombs’ is bad. «You’ve got to do it the right way if you’re going to do it,» Burke said.
Phinney is not the only researcher thinking about the usefulness of keto in space. In 2017, another scientist tested the keto diet while participating in NASA’s underwater experiment designed to simulate life on Mars. His theory was that the diet could one day help protect people from neurological risks during space travel.