The Science Of Why You're Hangry

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001_Paleo_RF29_11.12.13_014_LizClaymanPhotographed By Liz Clayman.
All my life, I've had a hanger-management problem. My friends and family have figured out that when my stomach starts growling, they have a very short window before I transform from perfectly pleasant to possessed by a sarcastic, short-fused demon of the underworld. It's not pretty.

I know I'm not the only one who suffers from hunger-induced anger, and all my partners in food-panic crime will be pleased to know there's a perfectly legitimate, scientific explanation for why we get #hangry.

Research shows that it's not necessarily hunger that brings on the fits, it's low blood sugar. The brain needs glucose, or simple sugar, as fuel to do just about anything. When glucose levels run low, it's less able to handle energy-intensive tasks, especially those that involve impulse control.

As a result, you're more susceptible to your frustrations and passing emotions, and more likely to take them out on those around you. This has been shown in several studies, including one published earlier this month that found that having low blood glucose levels made subjects more likely to put pins in voodoo dolls resembling their partners.

Interpersonal relationships aren't the only things that take a hit when you're low on fuel. As appetite specialist Sue Decotiis, MD points out, "Your body responds to low blood sugar by releasing epinephrine and norepinephrine, which can cause jitters, jumpiness, and lightheadedness, as well as anger."

Who's most susceptible to the devastating affects of hanger? Dr. Decotiis says that those who skip breakfast, and those who eat too much sugar, simple carbs, and processed foods, are more likely to suffer from hunger-induced moodiness. This is because your body responds to excess sugar by releasing excess insulin, a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels. The resulting sharp decline in blood sugar can produce mood effects that resemble hanger.

Fortunately, there are measures we can all take to reduce hanger's grip on our daily lives. Of course, keeping the candy and white bread to a minimum goes a long way to help avoid sugar spikes that can cause hanger breakdowns. Dr. Decotiis highlights the importance of protein and fiber, both of which play a key role in keeping you full and maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. In general, though, consider keeping a close eye on your sugar intake — it's arguably the best thing you can do to prevent hanger-induced demonic possession. Trust me, your loved ones will thank you.