Monday, November 21, 2011

What's Lurkin' in your Turken'


This is a post from 2005 on my now defunct Phoenix Blog - Where science is stranger than fiction. It's a perfect Thanksgiving post, and it's also nostalgic to look back and see stuff I wrote SIX years ago on my old blog. Enjoy!


The American Thanksgiving Tradition: gather family and friends, cook a giant turkey along with all the other wonderful dishes, eat until you can't eat no more, head over to the family room and turn on football, and finally fall into the abyss known as the 'turkey coma.'

It's really a wonderful tradition, and one I look forward to every year. Question is, is there really something in the turkey that makes giants fall? Is there some type of chemical compound in a turkey that makes Uncle Tony begin snoring and drooling on your couch? The media has been talking about this for years, but how much truth is in their hype?

There is an amino acid called tryptophan that's found in turkey. Tryptophan is a known sedative, and at one time was a common sleeping aid. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is needed for the body to create serotonin, melatonin, and niacin. Serotonin is a calming neurotrasmitter while melatonin is a hormone that induces sleep. Tryptophan was being used in pill form to treat insomnia, but there was a rash of contaminated tryptophan that caused serious illness and some deaths in patients.

So is it the tryptophan that makes everyone groggy after stuffing their faces? Probably not. Tryptophan isn't able to affect the brain inside a stomach full of other foods and protein. There isn't enough tryptophan in turkey to affect you whatsoever anyway.

It's really all the food you eat that makes you sleepy - the mashed potatoes, the stuffing, pie, sweet potatoes. Lots of carbs means you will certainly crash a few moments after dinner. The insulin effect from all those starchy carbohydrates will certain trigger sleepiness. Plus, alcohol will certainly lay you out for the count. 


Don't believe the hype about the tryptophan in turkey. Other foods containing tryptophan include chicken, pork, and cheese. When you consume large amounts of food, the blood rushes to your gut to aid digestion, and there's the insulin/sugar effect from eating all those carbs.

What can be done to avoid the 'turkey coma?' Who cares? Why avoid it? It's tradition. I say embrace your Thanksgiving induced nap. Enjoy it. Gathering around a table, shoving lots of good food down your throat, and then sleeping to the sounds of football is your God-given-right!

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful that the human mind is capable of justifying the enormous consumption of food that will make you fat and lazy. Just remember that it's not the tryptophan in the turkey that triggers sleep. It's a combination of eating lots of carbohydrates and the all-too-familiar call from the kitchen that, "It's time to do the dishes."

I guess many of us men have the 'turkey coma' on a daily basis.

10 comments:

The Desert Rocks said...

Ha, ha, ha. My husband always does the dishes. Love this post from way back. LOL

Ian Montgomery said...

Turkey comas are not so good for the people in charge of driving others home. But in my case, it certainly is something to look forward to. Happy start of the holiday season!

Riann Colton said...

I remember this post! So fun to read something from way back when.

Jay Noel said...

Eve - Crack that whip!

Ian - Just turn on the air conditioner in the car to stay awake. Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

Riann - It was great to look back. Might have to repost a few others in the near future

Milo James Fowler said...

Embrace the nap! I like it.

M Pax said...

Thanksgiving is a carb heavy meal. I've lightened it up a lot. I'm sneaky that way. ;)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Phats said...

I like your view on it why avoided after a good thanksgiving meal why not nap!

Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving

Jay Noel said...

Milo, I took some big time naps in the last few days. I always embrace them, since they are few and far between.

Miss Pax, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Now gotta burn all those carbs!

Phats, I hope you did too!

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