HOUSTON, May 10 (UPI) -- NASA scientists say they've determined omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil might help mitigate bone loss that occurs during spaceflight and in osteoporosis.
Researchers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston said their findings could have significant implications for both space travelers and people susceptible to bone loss on Earth.
The research involved studies using cell cultures, ground-based bed rest and data from space shuttle and International Space Station crew members.
In the cell-based studies, scientists found that adding a specific omega-3 fatty acid to cells would inhibit the activation of factors that lead to bone breakdown, specifically nuclear factor kappa B.
In a study of astronauts returning from short-duration shuttle missions, researchers found kappa B activation had increased in blood cells collected at landing, and remained elevated for two weeks.
The ground-based bed rest study determined bed rest simulates some effects of weightlessness, including muscle and bone loss. During the study, higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with less bone loss.
"These results are very exciting, and provide initial evidence that nutrition may be a key factor in mitigating bone loss in astronauts." said Scott Smith, a NASA nutritionist and one of the paper's authors.
The study that included co-authors Sara Zwart, Duane Pierson, Satish Mehta and the late Steve Gonda appears in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.