Science17 Jun 2009 12:24 pm
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, present in cheese, chicken, eggs, fish, peanut butter, soy and of course, turkey meat. This widely misunderstood amino acid is necessary for normal infant growth development and promotes nitrogen balance in adults. Because tryptophan is an essential amino acid, the body cannot manufacture it on its own, so it must be derived from food sources or through the use of dietary supplements.
Many people mistakenly believe that the drowsiness they experience following a Thanksgiving feast is caused by the consumption of turkey, which contains a (relatively) large amount of tryptophan. While it is true that tryptophan possesses sedative properties, it does so indirectly by helping the body produce the B-vitamin niacin. Niacin in turn assists the body in the production of serotonin, a chemical that has a calming effect on the brain and helps regulate sleep and mood.
However, tryptophan works best on an empty stomach; therefore, it’s sleep-inducing properties are rendered moot by the sheer enormity of the typical Thanksgiving feast, where it must vie with other amino acids for use by the body. Therefore, only a trace amount of the amino acid actually reaches the brain after a standard holiday dinner. Thus, most nutritionists believe that post Thanksgiving feast drowsiness can most likely be attributed what is consumed with the turkey; namely, large quantities of carbohydrates and alcohol. Moreover, the stress and/or boredom engendered by a stint of daylong captivity with one’s nearest and dearest cannot be overlooked as a contributing factor to post-dinner fatigue…
Tryptophan is also widely available at health stores as a dietary supplement, despite its presence in a wide sundry of foodstuffs. Many people use tryptophan supplements as an alternative to prescription sleep aides; however, clinical studies with respect to its efficacy have been inconclusive. It is also a popular hangover aid amongst ecstasy users, who rely on tryptophan supplements to help relieve the symptoms of ‘come down,’ due to their lower serotonin levels after using the drug.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.