What is tryptophan?
According to information contained in the booklet of the 1991 Hearing on the dietary supplement L-tryptophan before a congressional subcommittee, tryptophan is “the least abundant” of the various amino acids but has been studied the most. Tryptophan is what is called “an essential amino acid for protein synthesis and also serves as a precursor for the synthesis of important small molecules, including serotonin and niacin.” Other statements of interest on tryptophan from page 207 of the report include the following: “In animal studies, tryptophan was found to be one of the most toxic of the common amino acids. A number of metabolic disturbances, including hypoglycemia, have been described in certain animal species.” Furthermore, the report on page 207 by Dr. L. Leiter suggests that tryptophan supplements may be unsafe in pregnancy based upon the fact that pregnant hamsters fed tryptophan showed “a reduction in embryo and neonate survival.” Again, the analysis offered by Dr.
Tryptophan is an amino acid, a protein without which humans could not survive. It comprises one of the building blocks of DNA and is vital to the production of serotonin and melatonin. It is also widely accessible in dairy foods, bananas, chocolate and poultry. Certain old-fashioned cures for sleeplessness were based on the consumption of foods with tryptophan. For example, drinking a glass of milk before bed was said to aid in sleeping. Though people were unaware at the time that such a thing as tryptophan existed, it is clear that such early prescriptions for increasing sleepiness were at least mildly effective. Today, one may hear similar prescriptions for including tryptophan foods in the diet not only to promote sleep but also to improve mood. Since serotonin is produced through the action of tryptophan, low levels of tryptophan in the body may result in depression or anxiety. Most drugs that treat anxiety and depression do not, however, supplement tryptophan, but inhibit serotoni
We put this to John Fry, consultant in food science, nutrition and dietetics. Roast TurkeyThere’s been a question about sleepiness caused by tryptophan in turkey and this is a popular myth in the United States that a feeling of sleepiness arises after the Thanksgiving meal and it’s caused by the Thanksgiving turkey having a high content of a substance called tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid, one of the building blocks of protein which means that pretty much all proteins contain some Tryptophan but turkey’s not unusual in its tryptophan content. It has about the same amount as chicken or beef. Tryptophan is involved in the desire to sleep after a heavy meal but only indirectly. The root cause of the drowsiness but only indirectly. The root cause is the large carbohydrate intake that usually accompanies a celebratory festive meal. All those roast potatoes, the stuffing, not to mention sugar-rich puddings. They all result in a burst of insulin in the blood stream as the body tries
Imagine this. You eat a huge thanksgiving meal of turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and the dessert of your choice. Now, what do you do? You get tired, grab the nearest couch and take a nap. Tryptophan is an ingredient in some foods that make you sleepy. It actually promotes deep sleep. (YAWN) It is found in turkey.
Tryptophan is an amino acid famously found in turkey. In fact, it is also found in chicken and pork. The body metabolizes tryptophan and eventually turns it into a well-studied neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin is known to induce a calming effect after its release in the brain, and is thought to help regulate sleep in the human body.