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The Science behind “Hangry”

Never mess with a person that is ‘Hangry’ – You won’t like them when they are hangry. The word does have a cliché feel, but it is proven that people do get angry and irritable when they are hungry.

science behind hangry

‘Hangry’, (an amalgam of hungry and angry) is a simple phenomenon which happens when people get grumpy and they are overdue for a proper meal. You may have seen people shouting at their servers for being too late to bring food to their table, or a baby crying for hours when they aren’t fed.

The condition has nothing to do with their behavior or rude attitude, it’s in their body and mind, which is the recipe for hangry.

How it Works
The food that we eat contains fats, proteins, nutrients, and carbohydrates, which are digested into simple sugar (glucose) and amino acids. They pass into the bloodstream where they are distributed to our organs and tissues, and used for energy.

As times passes by, our energy levels decrease and blood-glucose levels starts to decline. At this point, the brain perceives it as a threat to your life, and as a result, you find it hard to concentrate, your words become slurred, everything starts to appear difficult, and you start to snap at people.

As blood-glucose levels start to decline more, the brain sends signals to our organs to start releasing hormones, which can increase the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. The two stress hormones (Cortisol and Norepinephrine) are released into the bloodstream in all types of stressful situations.

Another major hormone, adrenaline, is also released into the bloodstream, giving you the ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ response. This happens anytime you see, hear, or feel that someone or something threatens your safety. You just might even shout or get angry.

Another hormone chemical which is released into the brain while feeling hungry is ‘Neuropeptide Y’ which regulates to control hunger, anger, or aggression. People with high levels of Neuropeptide Y also tend to show high levels of impulse aggression. With such conditions, you begin to exhibit direct or indirect behavior of verbal or physical aggression. It also depends on the surroundings, cultural or societal norms, and how people react to such conditions when they get hungry.

How to Contain It
The easiest way to control your hunger or anger is to eat quick snacks like chips, chocolates, or nuts which induce an increase in blood-glucose levels and calms you down for some time. For some people, it may also counter-react to leave you much ‘hangrier’. That is why it is better to go with nutrient-rich foods and a proper meal like green veggies or fruits to satisfy your hunger.

Always be prepared ahead of time if you know that food will take a long time to be served, or if you will find yourself too busy to stop for a meal. Store some snacks like chocolate or nuts to help you during those times that you need to keep your ‘Hanger’ at bay.


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