\ Oh the Holiday Calories You’ll Consume | Columbia University Scientists and Engineers for a Better Society

Oh the Holiday Calories You’ll Consume

The holiday season is officially upon us, and with that the oversized meals commence. Thanksgiving has come and gone, but Christmas still lies ahead to add to the season’s carb packages of joy. So what harm does it do to consume a few thousand more calories than typical for these special occasions? And was the amount of Tryptophan in your Thanksgiving turkey really the reason for your falling asleep on the couch?

image from mariecallenders.com

According to the Caloric Control Council, the average American will have consumed more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving. That’s 2,061 calories from fat alone! Although the myth suggests people gain approximately seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years, studies by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and researchers at the University of South Carolina indicate that the real gain is about one pound. This single pound may seem small, but it sticks around! 85% of study participants still retained this extra pound a year later!

image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tryptophan_(data_page)

And what part does the turkey’s tryptophan content play in all of this? Tryptophan is a natural sedative in the form of an essential amino acid – essential in that your body cannot produce it alone. The tryptophan helps the body produce niacin, which is needed to produce serotonin. This chain of production explains the bulk of tryptophan’s sleep inducing reputation because serotonin is a chemical calming agent that plays a sizable role in inducing sleep. But here is where the logic falls through: tryptophan works best on an empty stomach. As we have discussed, this is not the usual case for most of us on Thanksgiving. Rather, the real cause of that holiday drowsiness comes from your digestive system working overtime to break down the entirety of your meal in its massive proportions of carbohydrates from mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams, and the rest of your holiday feast.

So don’t blame the tryptophan but do enjoy the meal!

 

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-tryptophan

http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/question519.htm

http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=324