Diet & Nutrition

'Hanger' is a genuine emotion, scientist says

Your pre-dinner moodiness is now 100 per cent justified.

By Bronte Chaperon
Ever sat with your partner at a restaurant and decided not to talk until your meal arrived because you were in one hell of a mood?
Or have you got home from work and snapped at your dog/kids/flatmate over something insignificant before dinner? Something, in hindsight, you felt you may have overreacted about?
You may be quick to justify your actions by sheepishly explaining you were just 'hangry' - a relatively new term referring to feeling both hungry and angry.
But turns out, you needn't feel too bad, because according to one scientist, hanger is a real emotion.
Speaking on an episode of BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, lecturer in nutrition and dietetics from Kings College London, Sophie Medlin, explained the 'hanger' phenomenon.
"We've long recognised that hunger leads to irritability in science.
"It can happen to anybody and perhaps in terms of neuroscience it's actually more likely to happen to men than women."Biochemically, in terms of neurology, men are much more likely to experience it than women. That is because of a higher level of testosterone," says Medlin.
So the stereotype that women are more affected by their hunger and become irrational before eating? Well, that notion can be stopped in its tracks immediately.
Now we know hanger is more likely to affect men (cue many smug women thinking 'I knew it!'), we want to know why it actually happens - and can we avoid it.
Medlin explains that when our blood sugar level is low, cortisol and adrenaline (also known as our flight or fight hormones) begin to rise in our bodies.
Without getting too science-heavy, these hormones trigger neuropeptides to be released - and these control certain chemicals in the brain.
"The ones that trigger for hunger are the same ones that trigger for anger and rage and impulsive type behaviours. So that's why you get that sort of same response," says Medlin.
To avoid lashing out at someone in a moment of hanger, try not to let your blood sugar level get too low (read: eat some delicious carb-type snacks ASAP).
Or top picks for avoiding feeling hangry? Donuts, pasta or pizza. Go on, treat yourself.