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ISU prof Blanton receives $30,000 NASA grant to study how nutrition can counter effects of weightlessness

Posted June 16, 2009

Idaho State University Assistant Professor of Dietetics Cynthia Blanton has received a $30,000 research grant from the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium to study how nutrition can potentially reduce weightlessness-induced bone loss.

This NASA grant helps Blanton expand a study she started with a $5,000 ISU Faculty Research Committee Grant awarded to her by the ISU Office of Research. Potentially, this grant could lead to even larger NASA awards to fund her research.

Blanton is testing to see if dietary supplementation with probiotics, beneficial bacteria in the digestive system, and prebiotics, fiber that serves as food for probiotic organisms, will reduce negative physiologic effects of weightlessness. Bone loss is a major concern for astronauts, particularly those on longer missions.  Currently Blanton is working with laboratory animals, who consume the special diet as readily as regular chow.

 “Hopefully, we can apply the outcomes of this research to astronauts and help reduce the bone loss they experience during spaceflight,” Blanton said.

Blanton incorporates concepts of research design and interpretation into her Nutritional Biochemistry and Experimental Foods courses for upper-division students in ISU's didactic program in dietetics.  

The Idaho Space Grant Consortium (ISGC) provides and supports numerous unique and exciting opportunities for the general public, K-12 students, educators, undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and industry in areas related to NASA’s initiatives.

The ISGC was established in 1991, and is one of 52 Space Grant Consortia established by NASA under the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. Based at the University of Idaho, Idaho membership is comprised of universities, colleges, science centers, museums, non-profit and other organizations located throughout the state.