FYH: Hangrology, the Science of being Hangry

FYH: Hangrology, the Science of being Hangry

If you’re like me, moodiness and irritation come hand in hand with being hungry—so much so that my family has compared to a dragon around lunch time. This character flaw is so widespread that it’s become its own emotion, hangry (the amalgam of hungry and angry).

What you eat contains carbs, fats, and proteins that are broken down into the basic nutrients you need to function, from every breath that you take to figuring out the next step you need to solve a math problem. In order for the actions and everything in between to occur seamlessly, these nutrients must be replenished‒ we eat three meals a day for a reason. As the level of nutrients circulating begins to drop, so does the efficiency of body function.

Glucose is the nutrient that the brain relies on for energy. When the brain’s only source of energy becomes depleted, it becomes more difficult to manage impulse control and emotional restraint. Now add stress from tests and a heavy workload to the equation, and you’ve set yourself vulnerable to moodiness, frustration, and lapses in judgment. You may be able to muster the energy to be at the very least polite to your teachers, but you let go some of that restraint around those you feel more comfortable with, like friends and family, and end up snapping at them.

“It’s one of the worst feelings ever,” said junior Andrei Arciaga. “Most of the time I snap at my friends.”

The brain, never the organ to just sit there and suffer, sends out an order for several hormones to increase the blood-glucose level in your bloodstream to counter the energy deprivation. Two of these, cortisol and adrenaline, are also released during stressful situations. The latter is also a major player in the “fight–or–flight” response. (So that time you really let you younger sibling have it, it was the hunger that made you do it.)

If the hunger pangs from your stomach haven’t clued you in yet, food is important. So much so that it is logical to conclude that a hostile response, the “fight” coming out of you, to prolonged hunger is a survival instinct. After all, any hungry animal that patiently waited its turn for others when food is presented would not last long as a species—is that why students always cut the lunch line?

Going even deeper, it was found that the same genes, the owner’s manual of the body, controlled hunger and anger, linking the two together. There are higher levels of a certain gene product in the brain when you crave food. Greater tendencies of impulse aggression are also more common with increased concentration of this product.

Hangriness will present itself in different ways in different people, as it does depend on more than just how hungry you are. Some people are able to reign in their emotions pretty well whereas others might be considered a work in progress. If you find yourself belonging to the former group, you can prevent any unwanted confrontation by keeping a snack in your backpack. Try to keep it healthy—a sugary snack may give you a small boost of energy, but you’ll end up crashing again. Listening to your body and knowing when (and what)  to feed it will leave you feeling better and more fit to go about your day happy.