11/27/02 - Does Eating Holiday Turkey Make you Drowsy?

Many of us know we'll be getting a little sleepy Thursday after that big Thanksgiving feast. But is it something in that bird that makes you sleepy? Many people believe that something called tryptophan is to blame, but that's not the case at all.
The turkey aisle is the hot spot at grocery stores. Shoppers carefully inspect them, looking for that perfect bird. You'll find them in a variety of sizes and different brands, what you won't find on the wrapping is if eating one will make you sleepy.
Shopper Pat Ferrell thinks turkey's the reason she takes a nap every Thanksgiving. "If you eat a lot of it it will," Ferrell says. "After I eat I usually want to take a nap."
Dietician Kay Litwicki says, "Turkey is a source of l-tryptophan, which does enhance the neurotransmitters of serotonin which is a substance in your brain to makes you drowsy." Those are a lot of big words for just wanting to take a nap, but is it the only food we should blame?
Shopper LouAnn Zoffuto says, "I think perhaps it's all the stuffing and wonderful things that go with it that make you sleepy." Shopper Crystal Eanes agrees. She says, "Any food makes you sleepy when you eat a lot and get full."
These shoppers are right. It's not necessarily what you eat, it's how much you eat. "Anytime you have a big meal in your stomach it tends to draw all that blood to your stomach to absorb food you just ate, instead of the blood going to brain to keep you alert," Litwicki says. So what should turkey eaters do? "It's not just turkey, so we need to eat turkey on Thanksgiving," Litwicki says.
Again, we know most people will eat a lot on Thanksgiving, that's a given. Most of us will want to take a nap afterwards, but hopefully this year you won't point your finger at the turkey, those sweet potatoes and stuffing also share in the blame.