Does eating turkey make you sleepy... and other folklore: Internet ScamBusters #206
Hi, As we head into the Thanksgiving weekend here in the US, we thought we'd keep this issue a bit lighter and focus on whether or not these three popular stories are urban legends or actually true:
- Does eating turkey make you sleepy?
- Was aspartame (the artificial sweetener) originally created to be an ant poison?
- Did numbers recommended by a fortune cookie really lead to a lottery win?
On to today's urban legends...
Does eating turkey make you sleepy?
A popular urban legend asserts that eating makes you unusually drowsy. Since Thanksgiving is coming up, subscribers asked us if this was true or merely another urban legend. In other words, is there actually something in turkey that causes sleepiness?
Although the answer is clear, it is not as simple as you might think.
Turkey does contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid that is a natural sedative. However, in order to produce this effect, there must be no protein present and tryptophan must be taken on an empty stomach. Since turkey obviously has protein, this is an urban legend.
Further, the amount of tryptophan you consume (even during a huge Thanksgiving feast) is too small to make a significant difference. Plus, beef and soybeans contain more tryptophan than turkey.
So, why do people feel so tired after Thanksgiving dinner? There are quite a few potential causes, including overeating (especially lots of carbohydrates) and drinking alcohol.
You can find more urban legends related to Thanksgiving and turkey here.
Was aspartame originally created to be an ant poison?
Another popular story, unrelated to Thanksgiving, is that aspartame (marketed as NutraSweet (R)) was originally created to be an ant poison, but was turned into a sweetener when it was recognized that a lot more money could be made if it was sold as an artificial sweetener.
Is this true? No, it's false.
Aspartame was developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s by G.D. Searle expressly as an artificial sweetener. Both saccharin and cyclamates already existed, but many consumers found that saccharin had a bitter aftertaste and cyclamates had been banned because of a potential link with bladder cancer.
The connection between aspartame and ant poison actually comes from a spoof article called "FDA Certifies Aspartame as Ant Poison," which you can find here.
The article ends by saying: "The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious."
Finally, there is no evidence whatsoever that aspartame kills ants. 🙂
Did numbers recommended by a fortune cookie
really lead to a lottery win?
We've all heard folklore about how fortune cookies have led to people winning lotteries and other fortunes, but has this actually ever happened?
The answer might surprise you: Yes.
Here's what happened: According to Snopes, this occurred during the March 30, 2005, Powerball drawing.
Although there was only one winner of the $13.8 million jackpot, there were 110 people who claimed the second prize for matching the first five of the six numbers drawn. This second prize was either $100,000 or $500,000, depending on if the entrant paid the extra dollar for multiple wins.
Powerball officials suspected fraud, since there are typically only four or five second prize winners, not 110.
However, there was no fraud in this situation. A fortune cookie manufacturer in Queens, NY had issued fortune cookies recommending the correct combination: 22, 28, 32, 33, and 39. (The last number recommended by the cookies was 40, rather than the winning number of 42, which is why these second-prize winners did not win first prize.)
Powerball officials repeatedly heard that the second prize winners had gotten the combination from a fortune cookie.
That means that fortune cookies actually have led to lottery wins in one situation. Nonetheless, we don't recommend lotteries, nor do we recommend fortune cookies to improve your odds of winning. 😉
Time to close -- we're off to enjoy a walk. Wishing all our US subscribers a very Happy Thanksgiving. See you next week.