Thursday, November 22, 2012

Does Turkey Make You Sleepy? False!

Undersleeping, alchol and a full stomach might make you sleep...Turkey wont. JR 

Eat Turkey All You Want! It’s Not Going to Put You to Sleep

That 45-minute nap on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner? That doesn’t have to happen! Kent Sepkowitz explains why the ‘the tryptophan in turkey means sleep’ trope persists, despite multiple debunkings.

Given its limited agenda, Thanksgiving has few myths or stories that surround it. Grandpa doesn’t talk about his first Thanksgiving in the New World; no one discusses the miracle of the one yam that fed 300 people on a mountain somewhere; there are no songs to be sung or heroes to be noted. It’s all business, really—the business of overeating.Indeed, the only myth about Thanksgiving, not counting our averred friendliness toward Native Americans, is an odd one: that the Thanksgiving meal, alone among other pig-out sessions, can make a person sleepy. Yep, not only does Thanksgiving give the green light to overeating, it also signals two thumbs up to those who need to catch a 45-minute nap on the couch right after the meal.

The “turkey means sleep” trope has been with us a while and has been debunked for just about the same duration but is still worth reviewing. The premise is this: turkey is chock-full of a soporific essential amino acid, tryptophan, one of the 22 essential amino acids. These amino acids are “essential” because our body cannot synthesize them; to maintain a blood level, we have to ingest tryptophan daily. So tryptophan at pretty big doses is a routine part of being a human on planet Earth. Despite this relatively stable homeostasis, a dose of turkey is somehow said to be enough to tip the scales of tryptophan toward hypnotic, dream-laden sleep.

To be sure, tryptophan as a white pill, not a slab of white meat, is used by some as a sleeping aid. Few studies, though, demonstrated efficacy, and the medical dose given is way above what even a total slob would choke down at the Thanksgiving table. But this is only one of the many bits of faulty reasoning in the trypto-myth. One of the clearest debunkings of turkeys-‘n’-sleep, from last year, features the comparative tryptophan content of various foods and points out that cheese and ham pack as much trypto-wallop as the big bland bird.

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