Posted 12 January 2004 - 10:27 AM
Although we have no scientific evidence to support a change in taste caused by microgravity, we have much anecdotal evidence from our crewmembers to support such a theory. Many, many crewmembers report that their tastes change when on orbit. However, there is not always consistency in what they report. Many say they like spicer things more on orbit. Some say they like beverages that are more tart and less sweet...some say just the opposite. Some say they crave more hot beverages...some say less. It makes sense that your taste could be altered, however. Smell is a huge part of how foods taste to us and in microgravity several things are happening that could change the "smell" of food. First, crewmembers experience a fluid shift when they enter microgravity. This forces much of the fluid in the lower body to the head. They are thus congested and, much like having a cold on earth, would alter the way things smell/taste. This congestion should go away/ease over time, however. Crewmembers are also in a closed environment and thus other smells are competing with/potential altering the smell and thus taste of the food. Crewmembers also do not have the opportunity to have their food on a plate in front of them with nice odors wafting up to their nose. They are eating from packages on orbit and this may limit the smell and thus alter the taste. Also, air currents won't work the same in microgravity. All these things combined probably alter the smell/taste of food. We have to walk a fine line on how much spice we put in the food. Some items are somewhat spicy...like the shrimp cocktail which contains horseradish. However, the Russians in general don't like a lot of spicy food, so we tend to stay more neutral on the food formulations and provide condiments like salsa and taco sauce for the crewmembers to spice things up if they desire.