In space, even cravings are different. Astronauts who might not necessarily like spicy foods on Earth develop a taste for hot sauce, and start craving sour and sweet tastes. Scientists have a few theories about why this happens.One factor might be that people lose their sense of smell in space, and with it much of their experience of flavor, as anyone with a stuffy nose can tell you. The heat of peppers is perceived by pain receptors, not taste buds, so an astronaut with a dulled sense of taste and smell may come to crave the hot "taste" of spicy food.
NASA's lead food scientist, Michele Perchonok, believes astronauts lose their sense of smell because the fluids of their bodies aren't pulled toward their feet, as they are on Earth.
"We call it the Charlie Brown phase, because their faces have gotten more round," says Perchonok. Round, because they are retaining fluid in their heads. "And as they retain fluid, they also feel like they have a cold or they're congested, and again they're not smelling as much."
Anjali is a former private chef who is currently pursuing a graduate degree in nutrition, with plans to become a registered dietitian. She lives in Los Angeles. You can read more of her health-focused writing at Eat Your Greens.
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