Turkey Day Trivia

Thanksgiving break is coming up and the only thing on your mind is eating turkey, watching football, and hitting the Black Friday sales. But here at CPMS, we like to enjoy our turkey with a dash of science.

Here’s the scientific skinny on your favorite no-calorie holiday.

Pumpkin Prescription

Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin decorations are everywhere during Thanksgiving, but did you know that they were also used for medical purposes? Pumpkins were once recommended for getting rid of freckles and curing snakebites. Pumpkin contains beta-carotene, which helps reduce the instances of certain types of cancer and lowers the risk of heart disease. Additionally, many facial and anti-wrinkle crèmes today still include pumpkin in the ingredients.


The wishbone your younger siblings (or perhaps you) fight over after the big meal isn’t unique to turkeys. Scientists have found that the T. Rex and Velociraptor also had wishbones. In birds, it is where the flying muscles hook up, and evidence has been found to show birds may have evolved from dinosaurs.

Turkey Snooze

Ever heard the rumor that turkey contains a chemical that makes you sleepy? While turkey does contain tryptophan, which is related to the production of serotonin, a chemical that helps us sleep, other foods we regularly eat—such as cheddar cheese— contain much more. What really makes you want to snooze after Thanksgiving dinner is likely eating too many carbohydrates in your potatoes, rolls, and pies.

Thanksgiving Might Be Healthy

And finally, here’s a study to make you believe the “calories don’t count on Thanksgiving” myths. Steve Toepfer, an associate professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Kent State University, has done numerous studies and found that expressing gratitude can have physical benefits.

Toepfer and his colleagues studied 219 college-aged students to gauge the effects of thankfulness on health. The students filled out questionnaires to gauge their well-being and then returned to the lab three more times. In the consecutive weeks, some of the students wrote genuine letters of gratitude, and the control group did not write about being thankful.

The results of the study showed that levels of happiness and life satisfaction improved for the group that expressed thanks while the control group did not. In addition, symptoms of depression also decreased over the duration of the study.

So, this Thanksgiving, instead of rolling your eyes when you mother asks you what you are thankful for, remember that turkey-day can actually translate into a healthier and happier you.

Happy Thanksgiving from CPMS!

—Meg Monk, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences


photo credit: Captain Kimo via photopin cc


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