— by Ann G.
… is, of course, the nap after Thanksgiving dinner! Most of us believe it’s because we are at the mercy of the chemical tryptophan, which is found in turkey, milk and quite a few other foods. Apparently, it’s more likely that it’s the piled-high plates than the turkey itself that make us sleepy, but it’s still interesting to do a little research about the soporific qualities of this naturally-occurring drug. Let’s take a little journey through the library’s databases, shall we?
First of course, is the definition, for which (being an Anglophile and also sort of compulsive) I start with the Oxford English Dictionary. The word “tryptophan” was first used in 1890 in the Journal of the Chemical Society, and it means “the substance which is formed during pancreatic digestion from proteïds, and which gives a reddish-violet coloration with bromine.” Clear as mud!
Next, I want to take a look at more about how it affects us physiologically, which leads me to Health and Wellness Resource Center. The article on “Nutrition and Mental Health” tells me that “the most widely researched amino acid is tryptophan, which is used by the body to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin plays a role in mood, eating patterns, and sleep patterns. One of the features of depression is a reduction in the amount of serotonin in the brain, though it is not known whether this decrease is a cause or effect of the condition. Tryptophan is found in many foods, including eggs, turkey, and beans.” Interesting! And the database even helped me find my term by highlighting it in red and bold — nice!
Finally, for an added research boost, I entered the words “tryptophan turkey” (without quotes) in the search box of the database AcademicOneFile. I came up with the article: “Talking turkey: can tryptophan calm your anxious, aggressive, or overactive dog? Let’s look at the science.” Since SPL subscribes to the journal this appeared in, the Whole Dog Journal, you can get the full text of the article. Spoiler—it’s bad news. Turkey isn’t going to calm your canine friend; the authors recommend good old-fashioned behavior modification and training.
We here at the Seattle Public Library wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving, and an awesome nap!