You really aren’t yourself when you go without food proving “hangry” is no myth, a study found.
The ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ Snickers campaign has been scientifically proven – in rats.
Dubbed ‘hanger’ it’s a phenomenon that causes you to become angry when you’re
hungry and it’s all down to low glucose levels – or hypoglycaemia.
And this sudden drop in glucose has been shown to affect mood in lab rats – and the same applies to humans, the Canadian team said.
Psychologist Professor Francesco Leri of Guelph University said: “We found evidence a change in glucose level can have a lasting effect on mood.
“I was sceptical when people would tell me that they get grouchy if they don’t eat – but now I believe it.
“Hypoglycemia is a strong physiological and psychological stressor.”
The study published in Psychopharmacology examined the impact of a sudden glucose drop on emotional behaviour by inducing the condition in lab rodents.
Study leader PhD student Thomas Horman said: “When people think about negative mood states and stress, they think about the psychological factors, not necessarily the metabolic factors.
“But we found poor eating behaviour can have an impact.”
The rats were injected with a glucose metabolism blocker causing them to experience hypoglycemia before being placed in a specific chamber.
On a separate occasion, they were given an injection of water and placed in a different chamber.
When given the choice of which chamber to enter, they actively avoided the chamber where they experienced hypoglycemia.
Prof Leri explained: “This type of avoidance behaviour is an expression of stress and anxiety.
“The animals are avoiding that chamber because they had a stressful experience there.
“They don’t want to experience it again.”
The researchers tested blood levels of the rats after experiencing hypoglycemia and found more corticosterone, an indicator of physiological stress.
The rats also appeared more sluggish when given the glucose metabolism blocker.
Prof Leri said: “You might argue that this is because they need glucose to make their muscles work.
“But when we gave them a commonly used antidepressant medication, the sluggish behaviour was not observed.
“The animals moved around normally. This is interesting because their muscles still weren’t getting the glucose, yet their behaviour changed.”
This finding supports the idea that the animals experienced stress and depressed mood when they were hypoglycaemic, he said.
It also has implications for the treatment of people suffering anxiety or depression, said Mr Horman.
“The factors that lead someone to develop depression and anxiety can be different from one person to the next,” he said.
“Knowing nutrition is a factor, we can include eating habits into possible treatment.”
It also sheds light on the link between depression and obesity and diabetes -,as well as the eating disorders bulimia and anorexia.
Having established hypoglycaemia contributes to bad moods the researchers plan to determine whether chronic, long-term cases raise the risk of depression-like behaviours.
While missing one meal may make you “hangry” your mood could be impacted if meal-skipping becomes a habit.
Mr Horman said: “Poor mood and poor eating can become a vicious cycle in that if a person isn’t eating properly, they can experience a drop in mood, and this drop in mood can make them not want to eat.
“If someone is constantly missing meals and constantly experiencing this stressor, the response could affect their emotional state on a more constant level.”
‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ is one of the most successful advertising slogans of all time.
The campaign was launched more than eight years ago and has featured a host of stars from Joan Collins to Rowan Atkinson.