Snickers gets you – using that so-hungry-you-turn-into-a-cranky-beast feeling you get after skipping a meal with the slogan “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”

Turns out, it’s more than just a marketing campaign. Recent European research shows that hunger triggers anger and irritability, something people coining the phrase “hangry” seem to understand.

The connection is biological, according to Carla Schnitzlein, DO, medical director of Natchaug Hospital, part of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network.

When our blood sugar levels drop, it creates both physiological and psychological stress because our body, especially our brain, needs glucose to perform optimally,” she explained. “When our brain isn’t getting enough of that critical nutrient in a timely fashion, it can create mood swings and irritability.”

In addition, the researchers showed that hunger can lead to negative judgments and behavior, and a lack of pleasure.

“When our brain doesn’t have access to its fuel, glucose, it isn’t firing correctly. This misfiring can lead to ineffective decision making or snap decisions driven by irritable mood,” Dr. Schnitzlein said.

Interestingly enough, just having a word – hangry – for a state of being is comforting for some people, the research indicated.

“It is human nature to find satisfaction and comfort in having an explanation, especially when it comes to something more abstract like mood. That being said, we have to be careful not to wave off chronic mood changes to being ‘hangry’ alone,” Dr. Schnitzlein said.

To help stave off mood-altering hunger, she suggested:

  • Keeping a regular eating schedule to avoid the ups and downs of low blood sugar and its impact on the brain and mood.
  • Choose balanced meals to support the body’s ability to regulate mood by providing the building blocks containing certain chemicals that impact sleep, stress and energy.