Thursday, November 23, 2006

Tryptophan

First, the definition:

Main Entry: tryp·to·phan
Pronunciation: 'trip-t&-"fan
Variant(s): also tryp·to·phane /-"fAn/
Function: noun
Etymology: International Scientific Vocabulary tryptic + -o- + -phane
: a crystalline essential amino acid C11H12N2O2 that is widely distributed in proteins

Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Tryptophan and turkey:

This snippet from a Wikipedia entry on tryptophan offers some evidence that tryptophan in turkey is not likely the soporific that it's commonly believed to be.
According to popular belief, tryptophan in turkey meat causes drowsiness. Turkey does contain tryptophan, which does have a documented sleep-inducing effect as it is readily converted into serotonin by the body. However, tryptophan is effective only when taken on its own as a free amino acid. Tryptophan in turkey is found as part of a protein, and, in small enough amounts, this mechanism seems unlikely.

A more-likely hypothesis is that the ingestion of large quantities of food, such as at a Thanksgiving feast, means that large quantities of both carbohydrates and branched-chain amino acids are consumed. Like carbohydrates, branched-chain amino acids require insulin to be transduced through the myocyte membranes, which, after a large meal, creates a competition among the amino acids and glucose for insulin, while simultaneously creating tryptophan's reduced competition with other amino acids for the Large Neutral Amino Acid Transporter protein for transduction across the blood-brain barrier.
In other words, Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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