Scientific Proof that "Hangry" is Real

April 30, 2014

Scientific Proof that Hangry is Real - and How to Avoid It

For the longest time, I thought it was just me.

You know what I mean, we’ve all been there. There are those days, whether you were crazy busy or just couldn’t seem to fit in a solid meal, you go a whole day without eating much of anything. Eventually you start to feel the hunger pains and you slip into your cranky pants without even noticing. You might accidentally lash out at a co-worker, a loved one, or a fur baby. Now, my dear, you have crossed the line from hungry to “Hangry.” The combination of the words hungry and angry combine together to form the slang term “hangry,” which describes the irritability that coincides with hunger.

Hangry has been thrown around for several years to describe the phenomenon but now there seems to be some evidence that this condition may actually exist and proof lies in a study recently published in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ohio State University psychologist, Dr. Brad Bushman, P.h.d was interested in the connection between blood sugar and temperament and conducted a study using married couples and voodoo dolls. He taught 107 couples how to test their blood sugar levels and sent them home with voodoo dolls and pins. Over the course of 21 days, he had couples test their blood sugar levels and stab the voodoo dolls each night and the amount of  pins they used represented how angry they were with their spouse. In the second part of the experiment, he had that couples blast each other with loud, obnoxious noises. The longer and louder the noise the more angry the spouse. Bushman findings show a correlation between people with low blood sugar and higher irritability.

After analyzing these findings, Dr. Bushman concluded that since the brain uses sugar as fuel, keeping the brain well fed will help us exercise self-control, showing that lower blood sugar makes it hard for us to control emotion and makes it easier for us to lash out. This study was only done on married couples with the theory that we lash out at the ones we are closest to but I think it applies any interaction you may have.

So how do you keep your hangry personality in check?

-Make sure you plan out meals and keep to a pretty regular meal schedule. Take note of the times of day when Hangriness strikes–perhaps it’s around 11:30 a.m., long after your 7 a.m. breakfast and still well before your 1 p.m. lunch. Or it might be 6 p.m.–end of your work day, and still no dinner in sight. Plan for quick food breaks at those moments: a cup of tea with non dairy milk (protein!) or vegetable slices with hummus or salsa are great ideas.

-Ok, that’s all fine and good, but what about those unpredictable days? Those days do happen, so it’s always a good idea to keep a protein bar, an orange, a banana, or bag of almonds in your purse, bag or car.

-When you have low blood sugar, you naturally crave sugary foods. But don’t resort to candy bars or sugary sweets as quick fixes. The immediate spike–followed by a crash–in blood sugar could make your hangry condition worse. Especially watch out for anything containing High Fructose Corn Syrup, which doesn’t reduce brain’s ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels the way glucose (simple sugar) does. (This is why HFCS is known as a factor in America’s obesity epidemic.)

Good news: naturally-occurring fructose is actually good for you. Fruits are indeed high in fructose, but it’s also high in water and fiber, both of which are satiating. Plus, they have a myriad micronutrients that are so essential for our health. Sweet snacks like a few dates or a banana, combined with healthy fats and protein like a tablespoon of almond butter, provide enough sugar and calories to tide you over until a full meal.

Most importantly: If you need to talk anyone about an important subject, make sure you do it on a full stomach.

 What’s your go-to strategy against getting Hangry? Share!

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Photo: Meganjo via Flickr

Krystle is the vegan blogger of The House of Snuggles. She currently resides in the desert with her furry family and when she’s not writing she’s baking, cooking, and exploring the possibilities life has to offer.


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