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Friday, June 21, 2024

Being ‘HANGRY’ is a real mood

We’ve all heard of the term ‘hangry’ but is it a real thing? Does feeling hungry actually make you feel angry?

The actual term ‘hangry’ was coined in 1918 to describe your irritability or anger due to needing to eat.

Now, researchers have found new evidence that supports there is an association between feeling hungry and experiencing negative emotions.

Can you really feel 'hangry'?Can you really feel 'hangry'?

A recent study in the UK found a hunger hormone produced in the gut can directly impact a decision-making part of the brain.

The study shows how hunger hormones (ghrelin) can directly impact activity of the brain’s hippocampus when we are considering food.

“We all know our decisions can be deeply influenced by our hunger, as food has a different meaning depending on whether we are hungry or full. Just think of how much you might buy when grocery shopping on an empty stomach. But what may seem like a simple concept is actually very complicated in reality; it requires the ability to use what’s called ‘contextual learning’.

“We found that a part of the brain that is crucial for decision-making is surprisingly sensitive to the levels of hunger hormones produced in our gut, which we believe is helping our brains to contextualise our eating choices,” said Lead author Dr Andrew MacAskill (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology)

This finding has demonstrated how ghrelin receptors in the brain affect our eating habits, showing that hunger hormone can cross the blood-brain barrier (which strictly restricts many substances in the blood from reaching the brain) and directly impact the brain to drive activity.

First author Dr Ryan Wee (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology) said: “Being able to make decisions based on how hungry we are is very important. If this goes wrong it can lead to serious health problems. We hope that by improving our understanding of how this works in the brain, we might be able to aid in the prevention and treatment of eating disorders.”

Research proves that feeling ‘hangry’ is a real thing

Another study, led by researchers from Anglia Ruskin University in the UK, analysed 64 participants from across central Europe.

Experts recorded their levels of hunger and measured their emotional well-being over a period of 21 days.

Amazingly, the results showed that if you are hungry, you are more likely to have stronger feelings of anger and irritability, as well as lower sensations of pleasure.

snacking front of fridge emotional eatingsnacking front of fridge emotional eating

Hunger correlated with a 56% variance in irritability, a 48% variance in anger, and a 44% variance in pleasure.

“[It] might be suggested that the experience of hunger is translated into negative emotions via a range of everyday situational cues and contexts that are perceived negatively,” the study authors wrote.

“In other words, hunger may not automatically lead to negative emotions, but given that inferences about the meaning of affect tend to be relatively automatic and unconscious, it may not take much for hungry individuals to experience anger and irritability.”

Lead author of the study Viren Swami, said: “Many of us are aware that being hungry can influence our emotions, but surprisingly little scientific research has focused on being ‘hangry.”

“Ours is the first study to examine being ‘hangry’ outside of a lab.”

“By following people in their day-to-day lives, we found that hunger was related to levels of anger, irritability, and pleasure.”

This is why you want to eat even when you’re NOT hungry

Why is it that we eat when we’re not hungry…boredom, comfort? An Australian study has lifted the lid on the reasons that we tuck into food when we’re not really hungry, and it may just help you curb your snacking!

University of Tasmania researchers have explored what triggers us to eat, and incredibly hunger is not the main reason.

Why do we eat, snack and drink?

The researchers wanted to delve deeper into the reasons we eat, snack and drink – so they followed 50 adults and tracked what things influenced their decision to chow down over 10 days.

What they discovered is that watching other people eat, the availability of food (ever caught yourself eating something ‘just because it’s there‘?!) and negative thoughts all impact our eating habits.

“The most significant findings are probably that it is the environment much more than our hunger (or whatever passes for hunger) that makes us eat,” co-author Dr Benjamin Schüz told The Healthy Mummy“This highlights how powerful cues to eat are.”

The study found that while things like being in a bad mood can drive us to snack, what’s happening around us seems to be more likely to make us eat.

“The majority of factors are likely external, although it is possible that they interact with both personal traits and current mood. However, as in many other studies, we found social cues – that is, seeing someone else eat – to be very powerful cues to eating.”

Knowledge is power!

So can these findings help us keep our snacking under control?

“The most important things are probably to be aware of the power of these cues, and then actively working with them,” Dr Schüz explains. “That is, learning to recognise whether the urge or craving to eat comes from a real need for energy restoring (in which case eating fruit is probably better than high-sugar stuff anyway), or from encountering a cue or just ‘that time of day’.”

“The more we know about the cues that make us eat, and these will differ for everyone, the more we can think about alternatives for these situations. For example, I have resorted to taking an extra apple to work because I know my feet magically transport me to the cafeteria around three. Doesn’t always work, though.”

The study also found that keeping busy and spending time engaging with friends and family can actually help you eat less.

Of course, we’re big advocates of making sure that if you are snacking, it’s the healthy kind!

We have hundreds of healthy snack recipes and a Healthy Snack Recipe Book that will keep you satisfied without impacting your healthy lifestyle.


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