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 toThe 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.
You probably know George Harrison as a Beatle, the lead guitarist of the most famous band in the world. We’re guessing that there’s a lot you don’t know about the youngest of The Fab Four, who was born on this day in 1943.
1. HE WAS ONLY 27 WHEN THE BEATLES BROKE UP.
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George Harrison turned 27 on February 25, 1970, less than two months before Paul McCartney told the world he had no future plans to work with the Beatles. It had been 12 years since Harrison had joined John Lennon’s band, The Quarrymen—shortly after McCartney, his Liverpool schoolmate—in 1958.
2. HE INVENTED THE MEGASTAR ROCK BENEFIT CONCERT.
Before Harrison organized the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, there were performances for charity, of course. But when his friend, the great Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, told him about the plight of Bangladeshi refugees, victims of both war and a devastating cyclone who now faced starvation, Harrison felt compelled to devote himself to the cause. He recruited stars like Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Badfinger, and Leon Russell, and together they played two sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden on August 1, 1971. Harrison then arranged for the release of a concert album and film. The ventures had raised more than $12 million by 1985, and profits from sales of the movie and soundtrack continue to benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF.
3. HE WROTE “CRACKERBOX PALACE” ABOUT HIS QUIRKY MANSION.
Harrison nicknamed his 120-room Friar Park mansion “Crackerbox Palace” after a friend’s description of Lord Buckley’s tiny Los Angeles home. The 66-acre property, about 37 miles west of London, was first owned by Sir Frank Crisp, a lawyer who lived there from 1889 to 1919. Harrison bought the estate in 1970—and quickly penned “The Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp,” which appeared on his first solo album, All Things Must Pass, also in 1970.
Friar Park was a strange place, with gnomes, grottos, a miniature Matterhorn, and lavish gardens, which Harrison loved to tend. According to the Victoria County History website, the house itself “is an architectural fantasy in red brick, stone, and terracotta, mixing English, French and Flemish motifs in lavish, undisciplined profusion.”
4. HE LOVED HANGING OUT WITH BOB DYLAN AND THE BAND.
All four Beatles were Dylan fans, and first met him in 1964. But Harrison felt a special bond with him, and spent weeks at Dylan’s Woodstock, New York home in the fall of 1968. The Band was there, too, and Harrison loved the collaborative atmosphere. During this time Dylan and Harrison co-wrote “I’d Have You Anytime,” which appeared on 1970's All Things Must Pass. The two would become bandmates in the Traveling Wilburys, and maintained a close, lifelong friendship.
5. THE "QUIET BEATLE" WASN’T SO QUIET.
"He never shut up," friend and fellow Traveling Wilbury Tom Petty once said of Harrison. "He was the best hang you could imagine."
6. WHEN HE LOST HIS VIRGINITY, THE OTHER BEATLES CHEERED.
During the band’s early years, they had extended runs as a house band in Hamburg, Germany, and were paid so poorly (and had to be on stage for so many hours) that they shared a small room in the club’s basement. Hence the witnesses to George’s deflowering, at age 17. "We were in bunkbeds," Harrison recalled. "They couldn't really see anything because I was under the covers, but after I'd finished they all applauded and cheered. At least they kept quiet whilst I was doing it."
7. WITHOUT HIM, THERE MAY NOT HAVE BEEN A MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN.
EMI Films, Life of Brian’s original backer, withdrew funding for the Monty Python comedy classic just before filming began, scared that the religious subject matter would be too controversial. Harrison, a big fan and friend of the Pythons, set up his own production company—Handmade Films—to fund the project. Why? "Because I liked the script and I wanted to see the movie,” he explained. Harrison not only saw the film, he appeared in it, as Mr. Papadopolous, "owner of the Mount.” Monty Python’s Life of Brian, released in 1979, was a huge hit in both the UK and U.S., and was ranked as the 10th best comedy film of all time in 2010 by The Guardian.
8. HE WAS THE FIRST EX-BEATLE TO SIMULTANEOUSLY TOP BOTH THE SINGLES AND ALBUMS CHARTS.
Harrison began recording the songs that would comprise All Things Must Pass at Abbey Road on May 26, 1970, just weeks after the Beatles broke up. The triple album was released in late November, along with “My Sweet Lord,” the first single from the album. Both the record and the single spent weeks at the top of the Billboard and Melody Maker charts in early 1971, while receiving rave reviews.
9. THE FIRST SONG HE WROTE WAS INSPIRED BY A DESIRE TO TELL PEOPLE TO GET LOST.
Harrison wrote “Don’t Bother Me,” his first first solo composition, while sick in bed at the Palace Court Hotel in Bournemouth, England, in the summer of 1963. It “was an exercise to see if I could write a song,” Harrison said. “I don't think it's a particularly good song ... It mightn't even be a song at all, but at least it showed me that all I needed to do was keep on writing, and then maybe eventually I would write something good." “Don’t Bother Me” appeared on With The Beatles, their second studio album.
10. HE WAS THE FIRST BEATLE TO VISIT, AND PLAY IN, THE U.S.
In the fall of 1963, Harrison traveled to Benton, Illinois to visit his sister, Louise, and her husband, George Caldwell. During his 18-day stay, Harrison also became the first Beatle to play in the U.S.—appearing on stage with The Four Vests at the VFW Hall in Eldorado. He played the second set with the band, taking over lead guitar and singing "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Your Cheatin' Heart."