The Hanger is Real

Science now shows why being "hangry" is a real phenomenon.

So, I have a confession: I finished grad school but I still can't put down the research. (Maybe somewhere one of my old professors is reading this and applauding me.)

The other day as I sifted through my newsfeed of political propaganda, pseudoscience articles, and the occasional fashion advertisement (I have a slight online shopping addiction), this article jumped out at me. Why? Because y'all, I am THE DEFINITION of hangry. Ask my boyfriend - he can be a U.S. Marine all he wants but once my hangry side comes out, there's probably nothing scarier.

Hunger and anger are two emotions that are commonly felt together due to decreasing levels of glucose in the body (i.e., low blood sugar). Low blood sugar triggers the release of hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and neuropeptide Y, which are all related to our stress response. In addition, neuropeptide Y has been shown to link increased aggression with feeding behaviors in humans and mammals.

This equates to, um, not so great news for your loved ones and others around you. A study of married couples suggests that we are often most aggressive towards those we care about most - so, they pinned down the issue (literally).

The couples were subjected to a nightly competition in which the winner could blast the loser with a loud, unpleasant noise through headphones. They were also given a voodoo doll to represent their spouse and were told to stick pins in the doll depending on how angry they were with their spouse by the end of each night. As expected, those with lower blood sugar levels stuck more pins into the voodoo doll and blasted their partner with louder, longer noises.

The study not only affirms the relationship between low glucose levels and aggressive behavior, but it also explains that glucose breaks down into energy less effectively as the day progresses.

So, what's the takeaway?

Try to maintain stable blood sugar levels throughout the day by eating regular meals and healthy snacks.

This prevents sharp spikes in the hormone insulin, which acts as a regulator for your cells to absorb glucose (thereby dropping sugar levels in the blood). This is the same reason why it is so important not to skip meals throughout the day!

Avoid processed foods.

Refined carbohydrates (like pastries, white breads, and candy) are very easily absorbed by the body because they are stripped of basically all nutrients, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This leads to blood sugar spikes and subsequent drops (i.e., a "sugar crash"), making us even HUNGRIER than we were before eating them. Hello, hanger and weight gain.


Exercise helps control blood sugar spikes by making your cells more sensitive to insulin. This means greater regulation of your body's sugar levels throughout the day because the cells are able to take more sugar out of the blood. Bonus: weight loss!