If you find yourself lashing out at loved ones, snapping at strangers and scolding schoolkids who take up two seats on the bus, you might be a little shocked at yourself. But don’t worry, you’re not turning into an old grump, you might just be feeling hangry.
This recently coined phrase describes a very familiar feeling, that is, bursts of anger caused by being hungry. It doesn’t affect everyone, but we all know someone who gets super snappy when they haven’t had a feed, don’t we?
Amanda Salis Senior Research Fellow in the Boden Insitute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders at University of Sydney explains where hanger comes from: “The carbohydrates, proteins and fats in everything you eat are digested into simple sugars (such as glucose), amino acids and free fatty acids. These nutrients pass into your bloodstream from where they are distributed to your organs and tissues and used for energy.
“As time passes after your last meal, the amount of these nutrients circulating in your bloodstream starts to drop. If your blood-glucose levels fall far enough, your brain will perceive it as a life-threatening situation. You see, unlike most other organs and tissues in your body which can use a variety of nutrients to keep functioning, your brain is critically dependent on glucose to do its job.”
We’re all familiar with this dependence on glucose. As blood glucose levels drop, simple tasks become more difficult, concentration goes out the window and mistakes happen. Your motor skills and speech can also be affected.
“Another thing that can become more difficult when you’re hungry is behaving within socially acceptable norms, such as not snapping at people. So while you may be able to conjure up enough brain power to avoid being grumpy with important colleagues, you may let your guard down and inadvertently snap at the people you are most relaxed with or care most about, such as partners and friends,” says Ms Salis.
Hanger can also be attributed in some people to the flood of hormones your body sends out to combat falling glucose levels. Some of these are stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which controls the survival instinct.
“Just as you might easily shout out in anger at someone during the “fight or flight” response, the flood of adrenaline you get during the glucose counter-regulatory response can promote a similar response,” says Ms Salis.
When you’re in the throes of hanger, it’s easy to reach for quick-fix, high-energy junk foods, says Ms Salis, however the trick is to have a nutritious snack before you get to the point where you could, literally, bite someone’s head off!
Do you ever get hangry? Do you know someone who does?