Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Does Turkey Make You [yawn] Sleepy?

Oh, the turkey, always taking the blame for the post-feast food coma. Although turkey does contain a sleep-inducing amino acid, L-tryptophan , so do a lot of other protein products. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that build up muscles and other important parts of your body. There are 20 types of amino acids, and these can combine in tons of ways to make different proteins. When we eat the turkey, the L- tryptophan flows through our digestive system and the blood carries it to our brain. The brain changes it into a neurotransmitter called serotonin. The serotonin calms us down and makes us sleepy.

However, in an exciting twist, we discovered in our research that L- tryptophan can only really affect our brains if it’s not competing with other amino acids to get into the brain. The brain is protected by the blood brain barrier, a selective bunch of cells that “guard” our prized grey matter. So, since turkey has many amino acids in it, it’s unlikely that the L-tryptophan is the culprit. Now here’s the bad news: carbohydrates also tend to trigger drowsiness. All the good stuff—dressing, pumpkin pie, homemade rolls, and pound cake—are the true guilty parties. (We also hypothesize that watching football enhances the effects.)
Now that you know that turkey doesn’t really make you sleepy, go on and enjoy your Thanksgiving! But you still might want to watch out for that cornbread and pumpkin pie! You don’t want to be napping on your plate…

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea that turkey wasn't responsible for making me sleepy. I'm still going to eat pumpkin pie today!