Hangry – With hunger comes anger

Do you know the situation when you press the snooze button of your alarm clock too often in the morning and only realize after ages how late it already is? Then everything has to happen very quickly. In such situations, I run through the apartment in an absolute hectic, pack my bag and leave the house in a hurry.

There is no time for breakfast. An hour later, I’m sitting in the university and listening to the Wisdoms of the professor – or trying to break my Candy Crush high score – the feeling of hunger creeps in. And with it, the bad mood. Anyone who approaches me and doesn’t offer anything to eat can’t count on my kindness.

For a few years now, this condition has even had its own word in our zeitgeist: “hangry” – a combination of hungry and angry. But why do we actually get so irritable and bad-tempered when we are hungry?

Blame the blood sugar level

The science behind the phenomenon is relatively simple to understand. The main trigger of the “hanger” is our blood sugar level, as nutritionist Amanda Salis explains on theconversation.com explains. When we eat, our body breaks down carbohydrates, proteins and fats from our food into glucose, amino acids and free fatty acids. Sugar, or glucose, serves as fuel for our brain. So when the glucose content in our blood drops because we haven’t eaten for a while, our brain switches to a kind of economy mode. As a result, our concentration suffers in particular, and we often make easily avoidable mistakes – which irritates us even more. In addition, we sometimes find it difficult to adhere to social norms and not snort at our fellow human beings. While we can just about control ourselves not to spit our opinion in our lecturer’s face in front of the entire class, we instead roll the anger off onto friends and lovers.

51 Needles and voodoo dolls

This was also confirmed by a Ohio State University study which examined 107 married couples with regard to blood sugar levels on the subject of anger. To do this, the scientists gave the study participants 51 needles and voodoo dolls. Yes, you read that right, voodoo dolls! These dolls were supposed to symbolize the respective partner. Over three weeks, the test subjects were asked to describe their anger toward their partner daily based on the number of needles used. During the same period, the blood sugar levels of all participants were tested in the morning and evening. The result – the lower the blood sugar level in the evening, the higher the number of needles in the voodoo dolls.

But low blood sugar is not the only reason we get hangry. Once the level is below a certain value, the brain panics and signals the body to release hormones that produce glucose. However, these helpers are stress hormones like adrenaline. So while the brain is able to continue thinking again, our body is on alert. An additional reason why anger and hunger go together so beautifully is that they are controlled by a common gene. This produces neuropeptide Y, a natural chemical that is released in the brain to stimulate rapid satisfaction of hunger. Neuropeptide Y and its receptors also simultaneously regulate anger and aggression. Thus, it has been found that a high dosage of the neuropeptide in the spinal fluid can lead to impulsive aggression.

What helps?

Food, of course! The fact that you do not have to Junk Food is clear. Because although this briefly raises blood sugar levels, it causes them to drop again just as quickly after a short time. So it’s better to go for the low-calorie healthy alternative and snack on lots of fruit and vegetables. And finally, something that both Amanda Salis and the scientists at Ohio State agree on: clarify difficult situations after and not before eating.

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