Long-term couples know all too well the perils of the early evening hours: that touchy time after work but before dinner hits the table.
It’s prime time for getting “hangry”, a handy portmanteau for hungry and angry. People commonly feel an uptick in anger or aggression when they’re hungry, says Dr. Brad Bushman, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University. “The brain needs fuel to regulate emotions, and anger is the emotion people have the most difficulty regulating,” he explains.
Your brain’s primary fuel source is glucose, which your body makes from the foods you eat. And as far as fuel consumption goes, “the brain is a very demanding organ,” Bushman says. While your brain constitutes just 2% of your body weight, it uses 20% to 30% of the energy you consume, he says…
When your brain is struggling to control its emotions, you’re likely to lash out at the people with whom you feel most comfortable, Bushman and his colleagues concluded. So loved ones and close friends tend to bear the brunt of your glucose-starved brain.
There seems to be another, deeper layer to your hunger-induced emotional fragility.
Some of the same appetite hormones that signal to your brain It’s time to eat! also fire up those brain regions linked with stress and anxiety, says Dr. Paul Currie, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. In fact, Currie says some of those regions overlap.
All of this makes sense, he says, when you look at the necessity of food in “evolutionary” terms. “If you’re an animal and you’re hungry, you need food to survive,” he explains. “So it’s natural that you would feel anxious and irritable and preoccupied until you’ve met that need.”
What’s more, this stress-hunger crosstalk may go in both directions. Research has found that people tend to reach for food (especially energy-dense junk food) when feeling stressed…