Why do astronauts crave spicy food in space?

A funny thing happens after you've been in space for a few days. The foods you liked on day one suddenly don't taste as good, and soon you're reaching for the hot sauce, even if you don't really like spicy foods. So why does it happen?

Well, the short answer is that people lose their sense of smell in space. Astronauts have reported that food doesn't taste right after a few days on the International Space Station. Coffee is bitter, folks start craving sour and sweet foods, and everyone starts reaching for hot sauce. No one is exactly sure why astronauts lose their sense of smell, but one theory suggests that once you start spending your time hanging around in zero gravity, all those fluids that used to get dragged down to your feet are now floating around everywhere, leaving you congested and diminishing your sense of smell. Once you have trouble smelling, the craving for peppers apparently kicks in.

So, when you're planning your space station garden, remember to leave plenty of room for the hot peppers. I assume we'll encounter similar flavor issues on the moon, but it will be interesting to see how changes in environment and gravity will affect the way we feel about food. Will foods taste the same way on Mars, for example, as they taste here on Earth?

Why Astronauts Crave Tabasco Sauce [NPR via Neatorama]