The Science Behind Why We Get "Hangry" (Hungry And Angry)

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The Science Behind Why We Get "Hangry" (Hungry And Angry)

You've probably seen the Snickers commercial about the angry people who look like they're about to rip someone's throat out. That is, until someone hands them a Snickers bar, and they revert back to their normal, not-so-angry selves.

Well, that commercial may actually be on to something.

In a piece for IFL Science, Amanda Salis explains the reasons for hangriness. Hangriness, according to Salis, has something to do with what happens inside your body. There are a few reasons why someone reacts with anger after not eating for several hours.

The physiological answer is the lack of glucose.

Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in food are digested into glucose, amino acids, and free fatty acids, which then pass through your bloodstream and are distributed amongst your organs and tissues.

This is also how our body gets its energy. But, as with anything, these nutrients do run out.

According to Salis, the brain is the organ most dependent on glucose. So, if your blood-glucose level drops too low, the brain perceives the situation as life-threatening. The body finds it difficult to concentrate on simple tasks or interact in socially acceptable manners, thus the anger.

There's also a bodily reason called "the glucose counter-regulatory response," which also has to do with low glucose levels. Four hormones — the growth hormone from the brain’s pituitary gland, glucagon in the pancreas, adrenaline, and cortisol — are released into the body after your brain sends a plea of help to the rest of the organs in your body.

What do these hormones do? They increase glucose. Also, since adrenaline and cortisol are stress hormones, your body reacts in the same "fight or flight" response when something is threatening you.

Hangriness can also be genetic. The neuropeptide Y, says Salis, is a natural brain chemical that's released during hunger and anger. People with high levels of this brain chemical tend to "show high levels of impulse aggression."

So, this all goes to show that hangriness is a natural reaction, a survival instinct, to the lack of food in the body.

However, despite what that Snickers bar commercial has shown you, Salis recommends avoiding junk foods like chips and chocolate, as these "induce large rises in blood-glucose levels that come crashing down fast." 

They will also make you even more hangry. Instead, stick to food high in nutrients. Salis also recommends leaving discussion of difficult situations until after eating. 

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