Ever wondered what astronauts eat while floating about onboard in the cantina of the spaceship? Up until now, most people thought that astronauts were left with special freeze dried space foods. However, a recent project proved that extra virgin olive oil can prevail its nutrients and biophenols for six months in outer space.
Gravity and extreme conditions shows to have little or no effect on the nutrient profile of extra virgin olive oil. That is the conclusion of a six-month experiment conducted by the Italian Space Agency and CREA, presented by ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in the village of Cosenza, Calabria, Italy.
The experiment studies, among other things, the effects of permanence in space on the chemical-physical, sensorial and nutritional characteristics of extra virgin olive oil, as well as its possible application effects on our planet. The sample was analyzed in Calabria, at the Rende site of the CREA Olive, Fruit and Citrus Growing Research Centre, as part of the “EVOO in Space: Extra-Virgin Olive Oil in Space (EVOOS)” project, where it is been compared with samples of the same oil stored in the same packages but left on the ground.
A unique experiment in the world that has revealed how the composition of secondary metabolites – phenols and tocopherols (vitamin E) – of Italian extra virgin olive oil is not influenced by microgravity and radiation present in space over a six-month period, but also offers information on stability of extra virgin olive oil and shelf life in spatial environmental conditions. From the preliminary data obtained, it emerged in fact how the special packaging in a vacuum protective bag, tested and currently permitted in missions on board the International Space Station, impermeable to oxygen and kept under vacuum, allowed the extra virgin olive oil to be preserved at least for the first 6 months within the ISS, ensuring a quality made in Italy product, still rich in bio-phenols and tocopherols.
These oils share a high content of natural antioxidants and, in particular, of olive biophenols, essential for those who, like astronauts, are subjected to conditions of intense psycho-physical stress.