The turkey tryptophan myth – Uncle George keeps repeating it

turkey tryptophan myth

Every year, on the fourth Thursday in November, the United States celebrates a holiday called Thanksgiving. Part of the tradition, along with watching football (the American version), is eating mountains of food, including a roasted turkey. And this is where Uncle George regales the guests with the turkey tryptophan myth – that is, eating a mountain of turkey, which he claims is high in tryptophan, makes you sleepy.

Because I know the average reader of this blog is pro-science and snarky, I post this article for you to embarrass Uncle George. Well, he’s probably a Trump supporter who wouldn’t know any science because it isn’t a pedophile in Alabama. Oh sorry, I did go there.

Back to Thanksgiving and the turkey tryptophan myth. Only a few countries celebrate Thanksgiving, and just a handful of countries eat turkey in any amount, other than the USA and Canada. Surprisingly, 87% of English holiday dinners will include turkey, a bird that is native to North America. So, I guess when gobby Uncle George (loyal Chelsea football fan) starts with the turkey tryptophan tosh, you can tell him to bugger off with this article.

Just in case you want to impress friends and family, the other places that celebrate Thanksgiving, similar to the USA and Canada, are Liberia (which is populated by descendants of freed slaves who returned to Africa from the US), Grenada (a small English-speaking island in the Caribbean), Puerto Rico (a Spanish-speaking territory of the USA), and Norfolk Island, an Australian territory of like 1500 people. The only thing I thought that was on Norfolk Island was the Norfolk Island pine. And now I wonder if they import turkeys for the dinner.

For Americans, the holiday celebrates white English settlers arriving in North America. The tales usually include some peaceful sharing of food between the white settlers and native Americans (a nice myth without much actual historical support) prior to the first winter. Canada’s backstory on Thanksgiving is much more complicated, including ships getting stuck in ice and other legends – it is very Canadian.

In both Canada and the USA, the celebration includes tonnes of food (per person) usually including a roast turkey. Other foods may include mashed potatoes, yams (sweet potatoes), other meats, pies, corn, stuffing, and more food. It is a high calorie meal of epic portions!

Generally, everyone, after finishing this dinner, would want to take a long nap. Thus, we find the origin stories of the turkey tryptophan math. However, the science of eating, sleeping, turkey and tryptophan doesn’t support this myth. Not even close.

Continue reading “The turkey tryptophan myth – Uncle George keeps repeating it”

MSG myth – debunked with real science

msg myth

Food additives are one of the most passionate issues amongst people who eat (which would be everyone). AspartameHigh fructose corn syrup. GMO‘s. Salt. Sugar. Trans fats. Polysorbate 80. But the MSG myth is one of the most pervasive.

Of course, these additives cause angst in people because of their scary chemical names.

Obviously there is stuff, created by the beauty of natural sunlight and goddess blessed sweet waters from the alps, that is better than these man made evil chemicals. Well, no. Everything in nature is made up of “chemistry” –  25-hydroxyergocalciferol is a scary chemical name, right? Except it’s the metabolic product of the conversion of vitamin D in the human liver. It’s natural!

But let’s get back to MSG – how many times have you seen “No MSG” in a sign Chinese restaurant? Is it because China, who has been using MSG in their cuisine for centuries, has been conspiring against Americans since the first Chinese restaurant starting serving up kung pao chicken to unaware Americans?

It’s time to look at the MSG myth – is it real, or does it need a good debunking.

Continue reading “MSG myth – debunked with real science”

Turkey and tryptophan – let’s science the shit out of this

turkey and tryptophan

A tiny handful of countries, most notably the US and Canada, celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. In the USA, the holiday is held on the fourth Thursday in November and more or less starts the so called holiday season which ends with New Year. In most of Canada (excluding the Atlantic provinces), the holiday is held on the second Monday in October. Invariably, there are stories about turkey and tryptophan, making you just want to take a nap hearing about it.

For trivia purposes only, the other places that celebrate a similar Thanksgiving to the USA and Canada are Liberia (which is populated by descendants of freed slaves who returned to Africa from the US), Grenada (a small English-speaking island in the Caribbean), Puerto Rico (a Spanish-speaking territory of the USA), and Norfolk Island Australia. Australia? I have no clue if they all talk about turkey and tryptophan over dinner.

Generally, the holiday celebrates white English settlers arriving in North America. The tales usually include some peaceful sharing of food between the white settlers and native Americans (a nice myth without much actual historical support) prior to the first winter. Canada’s backstory on Thanksgiving is much more complicated, including ships getting stuck in ice and other legends – it is very Canadian.

In both Canada and the USA, the celebration includes tons of food (per person) usually including a roast turkey. Other foods may include mashed potatoes, yams (sweet potatoes), other meats, pies, corn, stuffing, and more food. It is a high calorie meal of epic portions!

There’s a legend that eating this meal, specifically the turkey, fills your body with tryptophan, and you fall asleep.

Nice story, but the science of eating, sleeping, turkey and tryptophan doesn’t support this myth. Not even close. Continue reading “Turkey and tryptophan – let’s science the shit out of this”

Pepsi and aspartame – an unscientific decision

Unless you’re a follower of the junk science presented by the pseudoscience shill, Joe Mercola and other crackpots, you probably didn’t think much of the artificial sweetener called aspartame (or by its more common trade name, Nutrasweet). You might have wondered if it was safe, but your skeptical mind probably rejected any safety issue not because most of the negative information came from bad sources–like Mercola.

Now that you’re here, reading this story, probably because you just read something about Pepsi and aspartame – because the giant soft drink bottler decided to remove it from their diet sodas. They did replace aspartame with–oh wait for it–two other artificial sweeteners. Obviously, Pepsi did it for marketing/public relations reasons, but the decision itself is based on bad information (on the internet, of course), rather than real science.

Continue reading “Pepsi and aspartame – an unscientific decision”

Aspartame is safe according to the scientific consensus

This article has been completely updated with new information and can be found here. Comments are closed on this article, but please comment on the new one.

Aspartame (brand name Nutrasweet) is a popular artificial sweetener, approximately 200 times sweeter than common table sugar known as sucrose. Aspartame is a dipeptide of the natural amino acids Laspartic acid and Lphenylalanine–these amino acids or peptides are consumed regular with nearly any animal or plant protein.

When aspartame is ingested, it is hydrolyzed (broken down by water molecules) into its constituent components: aspartate, phenylalanine and methanol, in an approximate 4:5:1 ratio. No aspartame has been found in the bloodstream, since it is so quickly hydrolyzed in the gut, and only the constituent components are absorbed.

To be absolutely clear, there is no difference between aspartic acid and phenylalanine that form aspartame than all “natural forms” of those amino acids that are contained in the proteins of food sources. Continue reading “Aspartame is safe according to the scientific consensus”

MSG-fussing about nothing

In science, there is nothing more annoying than a pseudoscientific myth that is propagated to the point where everyone believes it’s a fact.  For some odd reason, foods are the center of the pseudoscience universe.  Eat organic.  Avoid GMO (genetically modified) crops.  High fructose corn syrup will kill you.  Keep salt off of your food.  Don’t eat this. Don’t eat that.  Drink this.  Don’t drink that.  Yet, where is the science?  Are organic foods really healthier for you?  Will GMO foods harm you? 

Of all the annoying myths, there’s one that is the most bothersome.  MSG, or monosodium glutamate, gets the most exposure as an evil additive to foods.  Yet, what is the evidence?  Does it really do anything? Continue reading “MSG-fussing about nothing”