Hey Mark,As much as we criticize chicken for containing too many PUFAs – which is a valid point, especially if you rely on chicken for the bulk of your animal calories – chicken fat is actually quite high in oleic acid, the primary monounsaturated fat and the same one found and championed in olive oil, ranging from 37% to 56% of total fat. In fact, it’s the primary fatty acid in chicken fat.
I love eating chicken, especially baked. I have noticed that after eating chicken meat with the skin I often feel pleasantly sleepy afterward. This is not a brain fog, food coma kind of tired. Just a nice tiredness. Do you know of anything about chicken that would cause this? Or is it just an association?
In the body, oleic acid can be converted into oleamide, a fatty acid amide. Fatty acid amides are formed when a fatty acid combines with an amine, and they are used in chemical signaling within the body. Oleamide in particular has been fingered as a potent sleep-inducer:
- During sleep deprivation, oleamide accumulates in the cerebrospinal fluid.
- Both acute and sub-chronic administration of oleate increases REM sleep in rats. May they sleep well and dream of large blocks of cheese (points to whomever gets that reference).
- Oleamide has been detected in humans, not just lab animals, and low oleic acid intake has been linked to sleep disorders among the depressed.
For a real nice sleep, try chicken soup. The glycine in gelatinous broth links up (in your body) with the oleic acid in chicken to form n-oleoylglycine, a bioactive precursor to oleamide with “chill-out” properties of its own. It’s not quite so simple as “eat chicken fat, make more oleamide,” but having more oleic acid in your diet should provide more substrate for oleamide synthesis, and thus inducement of sleep. Either way, it appears to be having an immediate effect on you. Even if my educated guess isn’t correct, enjoy the sleep!
You know, I’ve noticed this myself. Not just with chicken, but with pretty much any animal fat, which makes sense when you realize that animal fat almost invariably comes along with plenty of oleic acid. Beef fat? About 50% oleic. Pork fat? About 50% oleic. Lamb fat? Around 45% oleic. I wonder if olive oil (mostly oleic) will work, too, or if it’s something else in the animal fat that works in concert with the oleic acid. Interesting stuff. To find out the truth, just eat some animal fat before bed!
Seth Roberts has had similar experiences with animal fat (specifically pork fat) and sleep, for what it’s worth.