Monday, October 12, 2009

Gobble, gobble

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Many of us canucks will celebrate this long weekend by stuffing ourselves silly with copious amounts of food. Then, fall asleep at the table while grandma regales the crowd with a rendition of "Girls just wanna have fun" (oh, is that only in my family?)

The centerpiece of any good Thanksgiving is the turkey, the bird that is now bred so fat it can't fly, breed or barely stand. But, man, it tastes good. Then after you can't possibly fit in one more bite, the sleepiness sets in....

But does turkey really make us sleepy? Or are our families just boring?

The amino acid tryptophan has long thought to be the culprit behind that post-indulgence tiredness. Tryptophan is an essential part of any diet and can eventually be metabolized in the brain into melatonin - a sleep hormone. But, turkey has about the same levels of tryptophan as many other meats. And, more importantly, turkey is consumed with potatoes, yams, wine and squash - full of carbohydrates.

Turkey does make you sleepy and it is because of tryptophan.... but it has more to do with the combination of carbohydrates and tryptophan that contributes to our food-fatigue. Carbohydrates release insulin, insulin causes uptake of sugar in the blood as well as long neutral branched chain amino acids (LNAA for short). It is the ratio of tryptophan/LNAA in the blood that causes the brain to uptake more tryptophan, which is then converted to melatonin.

Whew, that was way more complicated than just knowing that little bit of trivia that makes you sound smart over the dinner table.

Now, let's eat!

Happy Thanksgiving!

-- Torah Kachur

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