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The Myth of Tryptophan

Posted by Vanessa Link on 17th Nov 2021

You’ve probably been told at some point in your life that the reason you’re ready to take a nap after your Thanksgiving meal is due to the high levels of Tryptophan in turkey. Well, that myth has been busted.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and is actually something our bodies do not produce on their own. Therefore, we must get it from our food in order to survive. Tryptophan must compete with other amino acids before it can make it through our blood-brain barrier, and only a small amount makes it through. Once it gets through the barrier, it is converted to Serotonin, which in turn converts to Melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep cycles. None of this can happen without the help of carbohydrates, which assist the Tryptophan in its journey across the blood-brain barrier. Carbohydrates actually remove most amino acids from the bloodstream, with the exception of Tryptophan, and they also produce insulin.

While it is true that turkey has Tryptophan in it, which does produce Melatonin, your sleepiness after the feast is not solely due to the turkey. In fact, there are many Tryptophan producing foods, such as eggs, yogurt, cheese, and almost any other meat. Most of these are actually higher in Tryptophan than turkey is. Another factor in the post binging grogginess is the simple fact that digestion takes a lot of energy, and you’ve just given your digestive system a very big job to do.

So, this Thanksgiving season, be thankful for Tryptophan! Your body needs it, and your brain loves it. Happy Thanksgiving from CP Lab Safety.