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Grab a Snack: Science Suggests Hot Tempers Set Off By Hunger

Fits of anger can be be set off by temporary drops in blood glucose levels, according to recent research.
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Employees' low blood sugar levels might be bad news when it comes to workplace harmony, suggests new research. According to several studies, a temporary drop in blood glucose might cause individuals to fall victim to angry and aggressive spells. In other words, they become "hangry" versions of their usual selves.

Many -- particularly those who own an "I'm Sorry For What I Said When I Was Hungry" T-shit -- will tell you it's a real phenomenon. But it's only recently that a growing body of research is making that case, according to Vox.

One study found that married couples displayed greater levels of both anger and aggression toward their spouses when they had low blood glucose levels. The researchers, who monitored 107 couples over 21 days, measured this by asking participants to stick needles into voodoo dolls representing their husbands and wives. Participants were also given the opportunity to blast their partner with loud noises like fingernails on a chalkboard and dentist drills.

"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," the study's authors wrote.

So why does hunger cause some people to act unpleasantly toward others? Voluntary behaviors, like self-control, literally require large amounts of energy. The brain, which accepts glucose for fuel, performs less than optimally when it is glucose deficient. And this leaves you with less energy to control your actions.

In a separate study, researchers also looked at the effect that the likely fix -- i.e. sugar -- had on individuals. Again, participants were given the opportunity to blast other participants with loud noise. But this time the researchers found that those who had consumed lemonade were more compassionate and blasted other participants with softer noises than those who had drank the placebo. 

 

Last updated: Apr 16, 2014

LAURA MONTINI | Staff Writer

Laura Montini is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.




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