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‘Hanger’ is a real emotion, according to science

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Susan Devaney
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It’s official: there’s a medically sound connection between hunger and anger, according to science. 

We all have that one friend or family member who transforms into an unreasonably angry individual, à la The Incredible Hulk, when they need food.

For years, they’ve joked that their tantrums and (generally) unreasonable behaviour are all down to pure and simple ‘hanger’ - a word so commonly used that it was added to the dictionary last year. Now, though, there’s scientific evidence to prove that ‘hanger’ is no joke.

Sophie Medlin, a Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics at King’s College London, explained the connection between hunger and anger.

“We’ve long recognised that hunger leads to irritability in science,” she said during a Women’s Hour interview on BBC Radio 4.

“But the wonderful world of social media has merged the two words for us and now we know it as ‘hanger’. When our blood sugars drop, cortisol and adrenaline rise up in our bodies – our fight or flight hormones.”

These hormones then trigger the release of small, protein-like molecules called neuropeptides, which affect the way the brain works.

“The ones that trigger for hunger are the same ones that trigger for anger and rage and impulsive type behaviours,” Medlin says. “So that’s why you get that sort of same response.”

Only food will fix your ‘hanger’. 

The research found that hunger causes a spike in neuropeptide Y, which is connected to feelings of aggression which is why ‘hanger’ can affect your personal relationships. A study from 2014 found that low glucose levels relates to greater aggression in married couples. Furthermore, another study found that 62% of people make the wrong decisions when they’re ‘hangry’.

So, what should should we consume to relive our ‘hanger’?

“It depends on how long it’s going to be until your next meal,” says Medlin. “Ideally you want something that’s going to bring your blood sugars up a little bit and also maintain them there. So a sort of savoury carbohydrate type snack would be the best thing to have.”

So let’s all be more empathic towards the ‘hangry’ individuals out there. Their struggle is real.

Images: Unsplash 

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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