Before you lash out at your spouse, eat a cookie
The next time you’re ready to unload on your spouse, check your blood sugar.
In a new study, researchers looked at the role hunger caused by low levels of blood glucose may play in marital arguments, confrontations and maybe even domestic violence, according to Brad Bushman, lead author and professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University. “People can relate to this idea that when they get hungry, they get cranky,” he says. “We found that being hangry [hungry + angry] can affect our behavior in a bad way, even in our most intimate relationships.”
The study, which took three years to complete, involved 107 married couples given dolls representing their spouse, along with 51 pins. Participants inserted pins in the doll at the end of each day for 21 consecutive days, depending on how angry they were with their spouse. They also measured their glucose levels twice a day for those 21 days.
Participants with lower evening blood glucose levels stuck more pins in the dolls. “When they had lower blood glucose,” Bushman says, “they felt angrier and took it out on the dolls representing their spouse. Even those who reported they had good relationships with their spouses were more likely to express anger if their blood glucose levels were lower.”
But why does low blood sugar make people more prone to anger? Glucose is fuel for the brain, and, Bushman says, the self-control needed to deal with anger takes energy. “Even though the brain is only 2 percent of our body weight, it consumes about 20 percent of our calories. It is a very demanding organ when it comes to energy.”
Bushman’s advice: “Before you have a difficult conversation with your spouse, make sure you’re not hungry.”