When you’re overly hungry, your stomach isn’t the only thing that gets growly—empty bellies tend to make some of us more irritable. Snickers has even framed a successful marketing campaign around it.
But is hangry a real thing?
Absolutely. There’s a physiological reason that our mood drops when our hunger level goes up, and it involves your blood glucose. It’s the same reason why diabetics can become moody or confused when their blood sugar levels are low.
Our bodies process the food we eat into amino acids, fats, and simple sugars, like glucose. We use these nutrients for energy, and when they run out, our bodies respond accordingly. Specifically, the brain depends on glucose to function, so when those levels drop, your gray matter goes a little haywire. You may stutter or slur your words, find it hard to concentrate, and make simple mistakes. Your may feel dizzy, shaky, or anxious. Or you may get enraged about things you wouldn’t normally get angry about.
Some people have more trouble regulating their blood glucose than others, so they experience that hangry sensation more often, and more intensely, than others. The correlation between low blood sugar and anger is so strong, in fact, that a 1984 study was able to predict violence from people who had problems regulating their blood glucose.
Another factor that contributes to the hangry feeling is when your body tries to respond to the low blood sugar. When glucose runs low, your brain sends messages to certain organs to kick in to get your levels back up. This triggers your adrenaline, and adrenaline can make you rather quick to get angry.
So, the next time that hangry feeling strikes, what should you do? Eat, obviously—but not all food is created equal. A quick fix is to consume something really sugary—but that's also likely to cause a brief spike in your blood sugar, followed by a crash. Nutrient-rich foods that keep you sated for longer and stabilize your blood sugar are your best bet: Hummus, nuts, avocado, Greek yogurt, eggs, and cottage cheese are all great options.
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[h/t: The Conversation]