If you’re like me, articles purporting to debunk common but mistaken beliefs will put you to sleep faster than a turkey dinner.
The problem is, despite of my commonly held belief, turkey doesn’t put people to sleep faster than many other foods. In fact, turkey doesn’t have any more tryptophan (the chemical blamed for post-turkey drowsiness) than several other, more common sources of animal protein. According to a new study produced by the Indiana University School of Medicine and reported by ScienceDaily, the belief that turkey is especially high in tryptophan is a myth, likely originating from the huge, exhausting feasts of which turkey is often a part.
The study’s authors looked at the tryptophan in turkey and six other common medical myths. The beliefs they studied are popular, not only among the general public but also among doctors—who often perpetuate such myths with the stamp of authority. Other myths busters include the following: people actually use more than 10 percent of their brains, hair and fingernails will not keep growing after death, and reading by low light will not permanently hurt people’s eyes.
Of course, the individual factoids are less interesting to me than in the larger lesson: doctors are susceptible to medical myths—just like everyone else.