The catecholamine response to spaceflight: Role of diet and gender

T. P. Stein, C. E. Wade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Compared with men, women appear to have a decreased sympathetic nervous system (SNS) response to stress. The two manifestations where the sexual dimorphism has been the most pronounced involve the response of the SNS to fluid shifts and fuel metabolism during exercise. The objectives of this study were to investigate whether a similar sexual dimorphism was found in the response to spaceflight. To do so, we compared catecholamine excretion by male and female astronauts from two similar shuttle missions, Spacelab Life Sciences 1 (SLS1, 1991) and 2 (SLS2, 1993) for evidence of sexual dimorphism. To evaluate the variability of the catecholamine response in men, we compared catecholamine excretion from the two SLS missions against the 1996 Life and Microgravity Sciences Mission (LMS) and the 1973 Skylab missions. Results: No gender- or mission-dependent changes were found with epinephrine. Separating out the SLS1/2 data by gender shows that norepinephrine excretion was essentially unchanged with spaceflight in women (98 ± 10%; n = 3) and substantially decreased with the men (41 ± 9%; n = 4, P < 0.05). Data are a percentage of mean preflight value ± SE. Comparisons among males demonstrated significant mission effects on norepinephrine excretion. After flight, there was a transient increase in norepinephrine but no evidence of any gender-specific effects. We conclude that norepinephrine excretion during spaceflight is both mission and gender dependent. Men show the greater response, with at least three factors being involved, a response to microgravity, energy balance, and the ratio of carbohydrate to fat in the diet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E500-E506
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3 44-3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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