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'Hangry' Science: When You Get Hungry You Also Can Get Angry

Image: 'Hangry' Science: When You Get Hungry You Also Can Get Angry
"Hangry" or just hungry? It's hard to tell with these two wearing Star Wars-themed costumes and eating pretzels in San Francisco. (REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

By    |   Wednesday, 22 Jul 2015 07:01 AM

Everyone knows someone who regularly gets "hangry" — hungry, and therefore angry — but the science behind the phenomenon might surprise you.

Writing in The Conversation, Amanda Salis, author of "Don’t Go Hungry for Life" and a researcher at the University of Sydney, explained that the primary trigger for the negative emotion has a positive upside: survival.

As omnivores, humans consume a mixture of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and all of them get broken down into simple sugars like glucose, as well as amino acids and free fatty acids.

As we get further from our most recent meal or snack, our glucose levels begin to drop. When they drop far enough, our bodies release a number of hormones, including adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) and cortisol.

As Salis explained, both "are stress hormones that are released into your bloodstream in all sorts of stressful situations… 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."

Thus is the primary cause behind "hangry."

"Hanger is undoubtedly a survival mechanism that has served humans and other animals well," Salis wrote. "Think about it like this: if hungry organisms stood back and graciously let others eat before them, their species could die out,"

The easiest and most obvious way of avoiding being "hangry" is to eat on a regular schedule, however that is often easier said than done. For those who might resort to snacks to stave off the negative spectacle, it's recommended that those snacks be nutrient-rich — that is, anything but sugary junk food. Junk food, while immediately satisfying, can spike the body's glucose levels, setting its consumers up for a bigger glucose crash later on.

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Everyone knows someone who regularly gets "hangry" — hungry, and therefore angry — but the science behind the phenomenon might surprise you.
hangry, science, hungry, angry
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2015-01-22
Wednesday, 22 Jul 2015 07:01 AM
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