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Angry With Your Spouse? Blame Low Blood Sugar

Couple Fighting

Is your spouse driving you up the wall? Try eating a healthy snack. You might be fighting with your honey because your blood sugar level is low.

According to new research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, spouses display more aggression toward each other when they have low blood sugar levels. As those who find themselves getting cranky with a loved one when their stomach is growling know, being "hangry" (that's hungry + angry) is a real thing—and now there's science to suggest why.

The researchers measured people's aggression toward their partners in two ways: by having them choose how many pins—from 0 to 51—they wanted to stick into a voodoo doll representing their spouse, and by telling them they could play loud, annoying noise into their partner's headphones after competing against them.

"As expected, the lower the level of glucose in the blood, the greater number of pins participants stuck into the voodoo doll, and the higher intensity and longer duration of noise participants set for their spouse," the researchers wrote in the study's abstract.


What Is Low Blood Sugar?

You're considered to have low blood sugar, otherwise known as hypoglycemia, when your blood sugar reading drops below 70 mg/dL.

"This makes changes happen in your body as it searches for fuel," says Timothy Graham, MD, an assistant professor of medicine, biochemistry and nutrition at the University of Utah, and director of the university's Diabetes and Heart Disease Prevention Program.

"We know it activates pathways in the hypothalamus, including fright or flight pathways," he says. This activity stimulates adrenaline and cortisol, which can affect your mood "dramatically."

Graham points out that even if you're not famished, it's possible for your blood sugar level to affect your mood. "Interestingly, most of these individuals didn't rate themselves as being hungry or having symptoms of hypoglycemia," he says. "Even when our blood sugar is within the normal range, we might be more irritable and more likely to show aggressive behaviors."


Boost Your Blood Sugar

To increase your blood sugar immediately, you should eat or drink something that has sugar in it, such as orange juice, milk or a hard candy. Longer-term steps include exercising regularly, eating a variety of healthy foods, and avoiding foods high in carbohydrates.

Graham says it's better to eat multiple small meals throughout the day than to skimp during the day and consume a big meal at night, because the former keeps your blood sugar on more of an even keel.

In an article about the study, Brad Bushman, a professor of psychology and communication at The Ohio State University, tells CNN, "I would recommend couples discuss sensitive issues over dinner," he says. "Or better yet, after dinner."