I’ve seen it in my own kids: A toddler tantrum, or even a middle-schooler one, easily deflected with a snack or a second breakfast. But science confirms that being “hangry” affects not just kids, but anyone whose blood sugar levels are dropping to low levels. Sophie Medlin, lecturer in nutrition and dietetics from Kings College London, tells the BBC today, “When our blood sugars drop, cortisol and adrenaline rise up in our bodies—our fight or flight hormones… The ones that trigger for hunger are the same ones that trigger for anger and rage and impulsive type behaviors. So that’s why you get that sort of same response.”
There’s also a theory that women experience “hanger” more than men, but Medlin debunks that premise. “Absolutely not. It can happen to anybody and perhaps in terms of neuroscience it’s actually more likely to happen to men than women.” Women may be getting more of a “hanger” rap because women may be more likely to talk about how hungry they are, and may be more in tune with their emotional relationships with food. The BBC notes, “Ultimately, the view of ‘female hanger’ may simply be another incarnation of prevailing gender stereotypes, including the stigmatisation of men declaring their feelings.”
The BBC notes that “‘hanger’ can have a real impact on your personal relationships, too–as shown by a 2014 study which found that low blood glucose levels relate to greater aggression among married couples.” In this apparently really dark study, partners were asked to stick pins into voodoo dolls based on how angry they were at their partner. Participants with the lowest blood glucose levels showed the most aggression—and the most pins.
The answer seems clear: Try not to let yourself (or your partner, apparently) get to the “hanger” point in the first place.