A very PLoS ONE Thanksgiving

In honor of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share a veritable cornucopia of PLoS ONE holiday-related papers old and new.

Tryptophan is the chemical traditionally credited for common post-gorging sleepiness, but does a lot more than that too. As one of the twenty amino acid building blocks for proteins, it serves all sorts of crucial biological functions, and it’s also involved in treatments for depression, HIV-related immune responses, and behavior regulation in 10-year-olds.

Then there are the cranberries, boiled into sauce or grated into relish, which are known to have health benefits due to their antioxidant and nutrient content, including a family of compounds called flavonoids. This paper published in October reported that obese mice treated with cranberry-derived flavonoids showed improvements in their weight-related symptoms, and identified the particular molecular pathway responsible for this effect – though I’m not going to go so far as to suggest that heaping an extra serving of cranberry sauce on your turkey will keep you from needing to undo your belt buckle this holiday.

And if you’re having pumpkin pie for dessert, you might want to consider garnishing it with some of the leaves. According to this paper, pumpkin leaves are a good source of plant-based protein, although the best balance of amino acids would come from combining it with seaweed and spirulina (a common dietary supplement that is made primarily from cyanobacteria).

On second thought, maybe you should just leave the pie as is.

Instead, if apple pie is more up your alley, it may also be good to know that apple orchards can be protected from caterpillar damage by offering nest boxes for bird species like the great tit. A recent study also showed similar results for nest boxes in vineyards – in case you’re planning to have a glass of wine with your meal.

Regardless of what you’re eating or drinking for the holiday, happy Thanksgiving from PLoS ONE!

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