Pupillary Pathways

Thanksgiving, Turkey, and Tryptophan

Posted by Amanda Dexter on Nov 20, 2018 7:33:27 PM
Amanda Dexter
Dr. Amanda K. Dexter received her optometric training at Southern California College of Optometry in Fullerton, California, where she was Class of 2010 Valedictorian. She also completed a residency in Primary Care and Ocular Disease at the Veteran's Affairs Hospital in San Diego, California. Dr. Dexter is the Manager and Program Coordinator for OptoPrep, the premiere online study resource for the NBEO Part I & II.

Thanksgiving,-Turkey,-and-Tryptophan

Are you ready to stuff yourself full of turkey on Thanksgiving to the point where you fall into a nice comfy food coma on the couch? Have you always been told that tryptophan in turkey is to blame for the post-dinner sleepiness? Well, we're here to tell you that is actually a myth!

Contrary to popular belief, eating turkey isn’t the main reason you feel sleepy after your Thanksgiving feast. The often-repeated turkey myth stems from the fact that turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is a component of the brain chemical serotonin, which eventually gets converted to the well-known sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. 

Although turkey does contain a significant amount of tryptophan, studies have shown that turkey isn’t any more sleep-inducing that other foods. In fact, many other foods actually have much more tryptophan than turkey. These include spinach, soy, fish, and cheddar cheese. 

Post-meal drowsiness on Thanksgiving has more to do with what else is on your plate, than the actual turkey itself. It’s more likely that consuming large amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and alcohol may be the real cause of the post-Thanksgiving meal snooze. 

So… don't blame the bird, blame all the side dishes you ate with it. And don’t feel bad about taking a little nap! You’ve worked hard studying for exams and boards, so embrace the relaxation, the delicious hearty meal, and the inevitable food coma! 

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