An Airport in the UK is Offering Meals Designed to Make You Happier


London’s Gatwick airport intends to make flying a little less miserable. Last month, the airport announced that its terminal restaurants were working with a nutritionist to design meals chock-full of serotonin, a mood-influencing neurotransmitter believed to be important to feelings of well-being (the most common antidepressants, SSRIs, are designed to increase serotonin levels). 

These meals, indicated by a smiley face on menus, include ingredients like salmon, chickpeas, bananas, and oats, according to The Telegraph“Happiness is a complex thing," airport nutritionist Jo Travers told the British newspaper, "but there are certain foods that will help the ‘happy’ chemicals in your brain to keep flowing.”

But don’t expect to find a newfound joy in flying after grabbing a banana and a salmon salad. The chemical cocktail of happiness is a little more complicated than that, and eating serotonin isn’t going to lift your mood. 

While eating healthy at the airport might help you feel a little better than hitting up McDonald's (just as it would on a normal day), a lot of serotonin in your stomach doesn’t translate into serotonin in your brain. “Although it is true that bananas contain serotonin, it does not cross the blood–brain barrier,” Simon Young, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at McGill University, wrote in a 2007 study on the neurotransmitter. 

The same may be the case for other chemicals rumored to have anti-depressant qualities, like tryptophan (the chemical in turkey and other foods like cheese, soybeans, and egg whites). The amino acid is key to producing serotonin in the brain, but Young argues that “although purified tryptophan increases brain serotonin, foods containing tryptophan [like turkey] do not.”

However, α-lactalbumin, a whey protein in milk with a high tryptophan content, has been shown to improve people’s ability to cope with stress. The best way to get that protein is through breast milk, where it’s the dominant protein. Unfortunately, regular cow’s milk has it in much lower concentrations.

And some studies have found that in adolescents, better nutrition can translate into better behavior. In a study of violent young adult prisoners ages 18 to 21, kids who received food supplements with all their daily requirements of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids committed 26 percent fewer offenses than kids who received a placebo. 

The links between nutrition and chemical happiness are complex, and eating a nutrition-rich food like salmon isn’t quite the same as taking an anti-depressant. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t opt for a healthy salad instead of a burger and fries at the airport. Just don’t expect to be skipping down the terminal to your plane afterward. 

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.


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