Food coma is the inevitable thing that happens when you gorge on a delicious meal, then find yourself in a sluggish haze shortly thereafter. It sucks. You shouldn’t you be punished for enjoying that mid-afternoon feast, biology be damned.
But researchers at Bowling Green State University and the Scripps Research Institute have figured out what exactly causes food coma, and it has nothing to do with the usual suspects: sugar and carbohydrates. Using fruit flies, scientists probed the links between human neurobiology and what makes us sleepy, finding that when consumed during a certain time of day, protein and salt contribute most to the midday slump. As the study finds, fruit flies maintain a certain level of inactivity after being exposed to protein and salt -- just like their human counterparts.
According to Scripps’ Dr. Robert Huber, the body works harder to digest protein and salt. "Clearly, protein is a very expensive commodity," Huber said. "If sleep increases your ability to resorb it, that would be a possible reason. And the same thing with salt." It's still unclear how sleep aids in the digestive process, Huber notes.
Carbs, Dr. Huber adds, are a bit more ubiquitous, and therefore our bodies are more equipped to digest them. That might account for the smaller amount of energy needed to process that spaghetti carbonara, or your unhealthy obsession with Wonder Bread.
This study refutes the oft-cited knowledge of sugar and carbohydrates being responsible for food coma, although it makes no effort to deny that yeah, excessive sugar intake is still bad for you. As declared by science, enjoying a nutritious meal is likely to stave off any impromptu naps, so just ignore the free pizza deals and be healthy, everyone.