Blaming the Bird for Your Turkey Daze


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This Thursday almost all families throughout the US will be celebrating Thanksgiving. Eating delicious food from stuffing to pumpkin pie, but we cannot forget about the turkey! In the online article from Scientific American, Does Turkey Make You Sleepy?, it questions whether or not turkey is the blame for causing americans to feel drowsy after their traditional Thanksgiving meal.

"Turkey allegedly causes drowsiness because it is packed with a nutrient called tryptophan. Tryptophan is one of 20 naturally occurring amino acids - the building blocks of proteins. Because the body is unable to manufacture the tryptophan on its own, it must be obtained from food protein." Tryptophan is used by the body to make serotonin and studies have shown that one function of serotonin is promoting slow-wave sleep in nonhuman mammals, this may do the same for humans. Although the facts may seem like turkey is actually causing you to be sleepy after your meal, it probably isn't the case. 

Turkey and other protein-rich foods contain many amino acids, and tryptophan is the scarcest among them. Tryptophan is competing with five other amino acids to transport to the brain through the blood stream. Because it is fighting against five other amino acids, tryptophan usually doesn't make it, causing the sleep to be coming from somewhere else. 

Where you ask? The dessert, of course!

"Gobbling a slice of sweet pumpkin pie, for instance, causes beta cells in the pancreas to secrete insulin, a hormone that allows the uptake of glucose and most amino acids into the tissues. But insulin has little effect on tryptophan, a large percentage of which travels the bloodstream bound to the protein albumin and therefor is unavailable to the tissues, the notable exception being the brain." 

All in all, turkey is not the leading cause to drowsiness after consuming, and the pumpkin pie probably isn't either. It is natural to feel tired after eating a large thanksgiving meal, trust me I know. Personally, I always take naps after eating Thanksgiving dinner because the feeling of moving after all that food sounds horrible. It is almost tradition down that after eating turkey dinner to watch some football and pass out in the process. I think by now it is almost programmed in our minds that turkey is the reason why we are lazy after our feast, and I am not complaining about that!

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2 Comments

Getting super tired after Thanksgiving dinner has been a common woe of Americans year after year. And like you said in your blog post, a very common misconception is that turkey is the cause of post-dinner drowsiness. An article that I found on Huffington Post goes into more detail about how turkey is not the source of drowsiness as most would believe. It discusses other foods like cheese and eggs that have just as much of “the sleep inducing amino acid” (tryptophan) as turkey does. Check it out because it brings up interesting factors from brain cells that produce a protein that affects your wakefulness to changes in your sleeping pattern due to travel arrangements! It’s pretty cool! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/22/sleepy-after-eating-a-big-meal-why_n_2171058.html

I liked your article! It's interesting that once we have a theory in our brains, we believe it to be true. I personally have never felt tired after Thanksgiving dinner, but I just thought it was because I'm not a big fan of turkey. It seems like Americans think that turkey should make them tired after they eat, so then everyone feels tired. This theory reminds me of the placebo effect. Sometimes, people begin to feel "effects" from a placebo pill. Take, for example, someone with a migraine, who receives a pill that they are told will eliminate their migraines. If the patient begins to feel relief from this pill, which in this case is actually a placebo, then it is an example of the placebo effect. This article explains the placebo effect much more clearly: http://www.neurology.org/content/71/9/e25.full

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