Often times when one goes without food for too long they become hangry: both hungry and angry. This tendency to become hangry happens as a result of low blood sugar, which, as it turns out, is no friend to married couples. Most people probably know a person who, when waiting too long between meals, turns into a version of themselves reminiscent of Mr. Hyde. This transformation is usually the result of a drop in blood sugar that causes people to become increasingly sensitive and edgy. A new study, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month, suggests that hunger related to low blood sugar might threaten a couple’s chance of achieving marital bliss, as findings indicate that drops in glucose levels actually correlate with heightened aggression between spouses.
The new study, titled Low Glucose Relates to Greater Aggression in Married Couples, was conducted by a team of researchers from Ohio State University led by Brad Bushman. Their research revealed that in order to be both receptive and level-headed during conflict, a certain level of energy in needed. The energy required to maintain self-control is usually provided from glucose that comes from food. For couples, when one or both of them is hungry, it could lead to a drop in glucose that makes them hungry and angry, causing a reduction in self-control and an unwarranted display of irritability towards their loved one.
The study examined 107 married couples, married for 12 years or more, for 21 days. The couples were instructed every night to stick anywhere from zero to 51 pins, depending on how mad they felt, into a voodoo doll that was meant to represent their spouse. The researchers used this to represent aggressive impulses among spouses.
Over the course of three weeks, participants had their glucose levels checked in the morning before breakfast, and at night, before bed. The results of this study found that the glucose levels of the married couples corresponded with the amount of pins stuck in the dolls. Those with lower glucose levels stuck more pins in the dolls when angry with their spouses, suggesting that marital bliss could be threatened by hunger resulting from low blood sugar.
While the methods of the study were slightly entertaining, albeit strange, the conclusions are worth noting. The brain consumes about 20 percent of the body’s caloric intake, Bushman explained, and when the brain is short on energy it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain self-control which often translates into aggressive impulses and behavior. The study also found that individuals tend to display aggression more often towards the people they are closest to, which tends to be their intimate partner.
For many couples who are experiencing troubles in their marriage, counseling is becoming a more commonly sought out intervention. Bushman recommends, however, that in light of these findings, improvements may come to couples who hold off on difficult conversations until both have made sure to eat. For some couples where instances of verbal aggression is experienced regularly, keeping hunger at bay may help curb aggressive impulses.
The onset of crankiness or irritability often seems to be out of the blue. When someone becomes hangry, it is not uncommon for them to become overly sensitive and easily irritated. For married couples it is not a stretch to think that hunger due to low blood sugar might be a threat to marital bliss, as low glucose-induced anger could potentially add to existing tensions within in a marriage, which may further isolate married partners from one another.
By Natalia Sanchez