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In Dining Blogs

Is it the turkey or the carbs that make you tired on Thanksgiving?

The turkey-tryptophan myth


Urban legends are tough to debunk, but with Thanksgiving approaching we're going to do our best to end one right here:

Turkey, in and of itself, will not make you drowsy.

When Aunt Gert proclaims otherwise, tell her to have another glass of white zinfandel.

The discussion comes up at just about every holiday feast. Somebody will point out that turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid with sedative properties.

That's true.

Turkey does contain tryptophan, which once was marketed as a sleep aid. But, other meats, cheese, milk, yogurt and plenty of other foods contain tryptophan as well.

Why does almost everyone in the family crash in front of the football game after the Thanksgiving feast?

It could be boring conversation. It could be the ingestion of about 2,000 calories in one sitting. More likely, it has to do with the heavy consumption of carbohydrates, which triggers the release of insulin, which creates a chain reaction that stimulates the production of sleep-inducing serotonin and melatonin.

So, the tryptophan thing is pretty much a myth. (It did make for a funny "Seinfeld" episode when Jerry and George wanted to play with some antique toys).

Feel free to argue with any aunts and uncles about the properties of tryptophan. It might keep everyone from falling asleep after the pumpkin pie.

Talkbacks

CoolerKing | Nov. 23, 2007 at 8:31 a.m. (report)

True, the tryptophan thing is a myth. The sleepiness and sluggish feeling is just your body pulling up energy to digest. Doctors say you'd need 2000-3000 mg of tryptophan to affect you in this manner. Four ounces of turkey contains about 350 mg so you'd need to eat almost a pound and a half of turkey to experience the tryptophan effect.

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brunocarlson | Nov. 21, 2007 at 1:43 p.m. (report)

Or the fact that your sister-in-law wants to complain about how hard life is being an at home mother of one, and is unable to maintain a home, laundry, disipline, etc, while you trip over the laundry, pass your nephew throwing pencils at the Plasma TV, and escape out the bathroom window. Happy Freakin' Thanksgiving !

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alba | Nov. 21, 2007 at 11:59 a.m. (report)

It's the combination of lots of alcohol and a warm house.

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