The Science Behind Thanksgiving


Michael Flippo -

Thanksgiving background with Autumn oak leaves and pumpkins on a wooden background forming a border

Jackson Williams

Thanksgiving break is rapidly approaching and with it, the home baked foods we know and love. What does that mean for our health and what does the science state about how these foods affect us?

Most people have heard the theory of tryptophan in the turkey causes sleepiness experienced by the consumers of the bird, but it’s harder to explain than that.

According to Diane Bunce of the Catholic University, “Tryptophan itself is the starting material for the body’s manufacture of serotonin. Serotonin is what makes you sleepy. But when you eat a large dinner, like a Thanksgiving dinner, the tryptophan is interfered with by all the carbohydrates you eat. So usually, you feel tired or sleepy after a large dinner because of the massive dose of carbohydrates.

But if you came in late at night when your stomach was empty and you had a piece of turkey off that carcass in the refrigerator, then the tryptophan could contribute to the production of serotonin.” This means that the tryptophan is a contributor to serotonin, which is a naturally produced neurotransmitter that regulates mood, digestion, sleep, bone clotting, bone density and sexual function. Serotonin is also used to treat depression, as it regulates the chemical imbalances in one’s brain. So overall the myth that one becomes tired or sleepy after thanksgiving is not true, but rather caused by the overwork of metabolism of carbohydrates.

No matter what you eat or where, make sure to enjoy the food for thanksgiving and have a wonderful break.