TRYPTOPHAN OR THANKSGIVING FOOD COMA?

Thanksgiving comes with many anecdotes — It always starts with dad’s account of his record setting high school football game in 1972, then the brother explaining his most recently read article about how winters used to be much colder…. And then the food coma starts to hit, and your eyelids slowly become harder to keep open. While I cannot vouch for your dad’s football prowess, and I certainly will not engage in the global warming debate, let’s take a look at the turkey controversy. Does the consumption of turkey really make people sleepy?

Usually, what people refer to is the amino acid L-tryptophan (which turkey contains) which is said to induce sleepiness. On the surface, that is correct. 500mg of L-tryptophan make for an excellent sleeping aid. However, amino acids can only work their specific mechanisms if there are no other amino acids interacting with it. Otherwise, they simply do not cross the blood brain barrier. And turkey, being a complete protein, contains 19 other amino acids, which prevents L-tryptophan from being effective in its own right.

This is also the reason why you do not have millions of people napping away after having a turkey club for lunch. If you want to try out L-tryptophan at night, remember to not eat 90 minutes before taking it.

So then why do we feel sleepy after eating on Thanksgiving? Well, the average Thanksgiving meal is about 3,000 calories, and that is enough to knock out an elephant. You combine that with the eggnog and dad’s football stories… I would be asleep too!

Happy Thanksgiving, and until next time….

Best,
Maik Wiedenbach

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