Several NASA-sponsored studies published in the May issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research indicate that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil capsules can help prevent bone loss commonly associated with osteoporosis.
The organization undertook the research because bone density loss is one of the most harmful long-term effects that the weightlessness of space has on astronauts.
For the study, a research team recruited 16 subjects to take part in a 60-day bed rest trial, where the effects of weightlessness were simulated. At the point of follow-up, participants who received high levels of omega-3 fatty acids experienced less bone loss than respondents who were given a placebo.
In light of the findings, the investigators analyzed the diet and incidence of bone loss of a group of astronauts who took part in four-to-six month spaceflights. They concluded that those who consumed more fish lost less bone mineral during their time in space than those who consumed a diet high in other forms of protein.
"These results are very exciting, and provide initial evidence that nutrition may be a key factor in mitigating bone loss in astronauts," said lead author Scott Smith, a nutritionist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.