Fundraisers should take note – there is more, more, more inside an egg than was once thought.

Studies carried out by Leiden University, the Netherlands, have found that a compound found in eggs can influence giving.

The researchers looked at the effects of L-Tryptophan (TRP) – the biochemical precursor of serotonin (5-HT) – in a trial group of 32 students, and when compared to a neutral placebo, TRP appeared to increase the participants’ willingness to donate to charity.

Studies in rats and humans suggest that the neurotransmitter 5-HT plays a crucial role in promoting prosocial behavior, and that its levels can be altered through administering TRP. To test if the compound has an influence on charitable giving, the Dutch researchers selected thirty-two international students for inclusion in the experiment, and participants were randomly assigned to two experimental groups.

You are what you eat

After fasting overnight, 16 were exposed to an oral dose of 0.8 grams of TRP – which roughly corresponds to the amount of TRP contained in three eggs - while 16 were given a neutral placebo. All participants were then tested individually.

Upon completion of a number of tasks, the participants were presented with a donating task, but not informed beforehand that donating was part of the experiment. Donating behavior was measured by the amount of money the participants donated.

With EUR10 (US$11.31) given as a reward for supposedly participating in the study, the guinea pigs were left alone and asked whether they were willing to donate part of their payment to a charity.

Those that are had received the TRP gave significantly more than those that had received the placebo.

While the researchers note that more research is needed to extend and replicate their findings, the study gives some credence to the saying “you are what you eat”. Students were given a supplement, not eggs themselves, and more factors will probably come into play than simply sitting your target down for scrambled egg breakfast if you are after a generous donation, but the ideas raised are interesting.

Various studies have found that food may have bearing on one’s state of mind, and in the case of eggs it could be that the result is a greater disposition towards charity.