Tryptophan and Turkey

Tryptophan is one of the eight essential amino acids. Essential means the body cannot manufacture it, so it must be obtained from dietary means. A typical daily diet provides about 1-1.5 grams of tryptophan, making the least plentiful of all 22 amino acids.

Tryptophan is a precursor of niacin, and essential for growth and metabolism. Tryptophan helps the body produce serotonin (a neurotransmitter) and melatonin (a neurohormone). Serotonin is a calming agent that plays a role in sleep and reduces anxiety. Melatonin is a sleep-inducing hormone released by the brain's pineal gland.

Because turkey contains tryptophan, it is widely believed that post-Thanksgiving drowsiness is caused by tryptophan. However, experts say that the drowsiness is not likely from your turkey dinner. Because, tryptophan works best on an empty stomach when there is less competition from other amino acids. Drowsiness after a big Thanksgiving dinner is more likely due to a combination of overeating and alcohol consumption.

To obtain the benefits of drowsiness from turkey, it is best to eat it (exclusively) on an empty stomach. [See also: Importance of Sleep] [ Copyright © 2004 World Image Naturals, Inc. ]

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