Crossing the Antarctica: Exploring the Effects of Appetite-Regulating Hormones and Indicators of Nutrition Status during a 93-Day Solo-Expedition
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionNutrients. 2021, 13 (6), 1777. 10.3390/nu13061777
Future deep space astronauts must maintain adequate nutrition despite highly stressful, isolated, confined and dangerous environments. The present case-study investigated appetite regulating hormones, nutrition status, and physical and emotional stress in a space analog condition: an explorer conducting a 93-day unsupported solo crossing of Antarctica. Using the dried blood spot (DBS) method, the subject drew samples of his blood on a regular basis during the expedition. The DBSs were later analyzed for the appetite regulating hormones leptin and adiponectin. Energy intake and nutritional status were monitored by analysis of albumin and globulin (including their ratio). Interleukin-6 (IL-6) was also analyzed and used as an energy sensor. The results showed a marked reduction in levels of the appetite-reducing hormone, leptin, and the appetite stimulating hormone, adiponectin, during both extreme physical and psychological strain. Nutrition status showed a variation over the expedition, with below-normal levels during extreme psychological strain and levels abutting the lower bounds of the normal range during a phase dominated by extreme physical hardship. The IL-6 levels varied substantially, with levels above the normal range except during the recovery phase. It was concluded that a daily intake of 5058 to 5931 calories seemed to allow recovery of both appetite and nutritional status between extreme physical and psychological hardship during a long Arctic expedition. Furthermore, IL-6 may be a sensor in the muscle-liver, muscle-fat and muscle-brain crosstalk. These results may help guide nutrition planning for future astronaut crews, mountaineers and others involved in highly demanding missions.