Medical Fun Fact: Tryptophan

Turkey, Thanksgiving’s favorite meat, is thought to contain high levels of tryptophan, causing sleepiness after our large turkey dinners. However, the tryptophan content of turkey is comparable to that of poultry, beef, and other meats. Other foods like soybeans, sesame seeds, certain cheeses, and egg whites contain even higher levels of tryptophan! But we rarely talk about sleepiness with excessive consumption of cheese, soy, or tofu. While it is possible that consumption of large amounts of tryptophan can make one sleepy, this idea has not been well studied.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning it cannot be synthesized by the human body and needs to be obtained through the human diet alone. It is an important building block in proteins, as well as other molecules like serotonin (a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for maintaining a feeling of well-being and happiness).

So, when you are sitting around the table this Thanksgiving, you can share this clever fun fact with family and friends. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!