Science Confirmed What You Already Knew: Being Hangry Is Real

Hanger, the rage you get (and maybe take out on others) when you're actually just hungry, isn't merely a convenient excuse for being a jerk. It makes scientific sense, and it might actually be a survival mechanism.

When Hanger Strikes

Anyone who has ever lashed out at a coworker after working through lunch, or screamed at a boyfriend before dinner but suddenly felt much better after the meal, might be familiar with notion of being hangry. A combination of "hungry" and "angry," hangry is the state you find yourself in when your body has been deprived of glucose and, as a result, sends messages to your brain to behave aggressively. "Self-control consumes a lot of glucose in the brain, suggesting that low glucose and poor glucose metabolism are linked to aggression and violence," wrote the authors of a study on the subject that was published in the journal Aggressive Behavior.

Dr. Amanda Salis, associate professor at the Boden Institute at the University of Sydney, told the Huffington Post that hanger is probably a survival mechanism. "If our predecessors just stood back and politely let others get to the food before them, there is a good chance that they may not have gotten enough to eat, and they would have died — possibly before they could pass their genes on to the next generation," she said. "So it was likely the individuals that were aggressive when hungry that had a survival advantage, and we hence carry their genes to this day, whether we live with a shortage or abundance of food."

Smart Graphic

Before You Snap At Someone...

It may have been a life-or-death situation for our predecessors, but in most cases, no one is going to die if you skip a meal, so try to keep that in mind before lashing out at a spouse—though being rational on an empty stomach isn't always easy, we know. In fact, one study found that low glucose, and the aggression that results, is to blame for a number of marital spats. "To measure aggressive impulses, each evening participants stuck between 0 and 51 pins into a voodoo doll that represented their spouse, depending how angry they were with their spouse," wrote the study authors in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "To measure aggression, participants competed against their spouse on a 25-trial task in which the winner blasted the loser with loud noise through headphones. As expected, the lower the level of glucose in the blood, the greater number of pins participants stuck into the voodoo doll, and the higher intensity and longer duration of noise participants set for their spouse." Isn't love grand?

To avoid hanger, the answer is simple: eat. As the study authors explained in the first hanger study we mentioned: "A spoonful of sugar helps aggressive and violent behaviors go down."

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Chew On These: Our Favorite Videos About Being Hangry

More On Why You Get Angry When You're Hungry

It's not just because you're a child who needs food now, now, now.

The Science of Being Hangry

More on everyone's favorite combo-word.

Why Stomachs Growl When You're Hungry

Or, why they're louder when you need a bite.

Written by Curiosity Staff April 26, 2015

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