It's Real: What Happens to Your Brain When You're Hangry
The word "hangry" might have arisen as a colloquial term to explain the irrational anger or irritability that happens when we're hungry, but studies suggest it's no joke. As Stylist points out, hanger is a real physiological state, and multiple studies confirm that a lack of food really does impact our mood and emotions.
"We've long recognised that hunger leads to irritability in science. … But the wonderful world of social media has merged the two words for us and now we know it as 'hanger,'" says Sophie Medlin, a lecturer in nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London in an interview on BBC Radio 4.
The phenomenon is a result of changes in our blood sugar levels that impact the brain. "When our blood sugars drop, cortisol and adrenaline rise up in our bodies—our fight-or-flight hormones," she says. These hormones cause the release of neuropeptides, which affect 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."
Studies also confirm that hanger affects relationships. A 2014 study found that low glucose levels relate to higher aggression in married couples. Another study found that 62 percent of people make poor decisions when they're hangry.