In 10th grade, high school biology, our teacher told us that it’s not tryptophan that makes you tired at Thanksgiving. She gave biological reasons why, citing primarily that the digestion process — especially after overeating — caused a slowing in the body function that encouraged a sense of lethargy.
Tryptophan is found in all food and turkey does not feature a greater surplus amount than other foods.
Validation comes in the form of an article in a science magazine article. Check this out. Quoth the article:
The oft-repeated turkey mythstems from the fact that turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which forms the basis of brain chemicals that make people tired. But turkey isn’t any more sleep-inducing than other foods. In fact, consuming large amounts of carbohydrates and alcohol may be the real cause of a post-Thanksgiving-meal snooze, experts say.
Tryptophan is a component of the brain chemical serotonin, which gets converted into the well-known sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Poultry and many other foods also contain tryptophan, in similar amounts to that found in turkey. Gram for gram, cheddar cheese actually contains more tryptophan than turkey does.
Basically, any big meal containing tryptophan and lots of carbohydrates can trigger sleepiness — not just turkey. And on Thanksgiving, many other factors contribute to feelings of tiredness, such as drinking alcohol. The holidays are also a time when people often take a break from their hard work.
But like all myths, people stick to what they know despite science’s ability to dispel rumors and change traditional ideas.
What sucks is I’ve been repeating it yearly since 1992.
If the war on tryptophan = sleepiness is this tough, imagine the sisyphean feat of educating people to understand and disregard religious myths.