Glucose is fuel for the brain. The self-control needed to deal with anger and aggressive impulses takes energy, and that energy is provided in part by glucose. You may wish to check out the abstract of a study, "Glucose and aggression in married couples," that also has the title, "Low glucose relates to greater aggression in married couples," recently published online on April 14, 2013 in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). Intimate partner violence affects millions of people globally. What causes such poor self control?
Could it be a drop in blood sugar levels? And if the person eats in a way that the blood sugar levels don't drop so rapidly due to dietary factors, would there be fewer incidences of domestic violence due to inability to control impulses resulting from poor self control? The theory is that self-control requires energy, part of which is provided by glucose.
Have you ever noticed at least in the portrayal of domestic violence in the media a scene where one hungry person sits down at the table to eat, but looking at the food isn't pleased with the taste or condition of what's being served and bursts out in anger at the person who cooked or served the meal?
The study's abstract reports that individuals are often the most aggressive against the people to whom they are closest—intimate partners. Intimate partner violence might be partly a result of poor self-control. If a person hasn't much energy, there probably won't be much aggressive impulses against those closest.
The study took three years to complete. Brad Bushman conducted the research with C. Nathan DeWall of the University of Kentucky; Richard S. Pond of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington; and Michael D. Hanus of Ohio State. As the study's abstract notes, self-control of aggressive impulses requires energy, and much of this energy is provided by glucose derived from the food we eat.
That's the key word, glucose. Without glucose/sugar in the body, can there be intimate violence against those closest in the family residence? Would, perhaps fats instead of glucose on the brain calm the aggressive abuser of spouse and children?
In the study, researchers measured glucose levels in 107 married couples over 21 days. To measure aggressive impulses, participants stuck 0–51 pins into a voodoo doll that represented their spouse each night, depending how angry they were with their spouse. To measure aggression, participants blasted their spouse with loud noise through headphones.
Participants who had lower glucose levels stuck more pins into the voodoo doll and blasted their spouse with louder and longer noise blasts
So do people whose blood sugar levels are lowest tend to be most aggressive, harsh, and mean to those they should love and cherish? What the study's abstract explained noted that one possible contributing factor is poor self-control.
Self-control requires energy, part of which is provided by glucose. For 21 days, glucose levels were measured in 107 married couples. To measure aggressive impulses, each evening participants stuck between 0 and 51 pins into a voodoo doll that represented their spouse, depending how angry they were with their spouse. To measure aggression, participants competed against their spouse on a 25-trial task in which the winner blasted the loser with loud noise through headphones. 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 new study finds that 'hangry' husbands and wives get more aggressive
Lower levels of blood sugar may make married people angrier at their spouses and even more likely to lash out aggressively, new research reveals. In a 21-day study, researchers found that levels of blood glucose in married people, measured each night, predicted how angry they would be with their spouse that evening. Could the anger of low blood sugar due to dietary factors such as hunger or a junk-food diet also cause road rage or child abuse, getting angry at a stranger for a perceived act of disrespect? Is low blood glucose also behind lack of impulse control?
At the end of the 21 days, people who had generally lower levels of glucose were willing to blast their spouses with unpleasant noises at a higher volume and for a longer time than those who had higher glucose levels. Curiously, could this also happen at weddings where the bride and groom didn't eat all day and then suddenly gorged on cake and candy, only to smash each other in the face with the wedding cake and call it a family tradition? After all, abusers frequently say they were only joking to excuse an act of aggressive against a partner, even if the lack impulse control is hidden or diminished by later words, sometimes called the honeymoon stage of the cycle of domestic abuse. Could hunger and low blood glucose levels play a part in intimate rage against those closest or even total strangers sharing a bus, plane, or the road?
What the study shows is how one simple, often overlooked factor – hunger caused by low levels of blood glucose - may play a role in marital arguments, confrontations and possibly even some domestic violence, said Brad Bushman, lead author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.
Blood glucose levels can be brought up most quickly by eating carbohydrates or sugary foods
"People can relate to this idea that when they get hungry, they get cranky," Bushman said, according to the April 14, 2014 news release, Lashing out at your spouse? Check your blood sugar. It even has a slang term: "hangry" (hungry + angry). "We found that being hangry can affect our behavior in a bad way, even in our most intimate relationships," he explained in the news release.
The research involved 107 married couples. The study started with the couples completing a relationship satisfaction measure, which asked each spouse how much they agreed with statements like "I feel satisfied with our relationship." The researchers measured anger in a unique way, developed and validated by DeWall in previous studies.
All participants were given a voodoo doll that they were told represented their spouse, along with 51 pins. At the end of each day, for 21 consecutive days, the participants inserted 0 to 51 pins in the doll, depending on how angry they were with their spouse. They did this alone, without their spouses being present, and recorded the number of pins they stuck in the doll. Each person also used a blood glucose meter to measure glucose levels before breakfast and every evening before bed for the 21 days.
The result: The lower the participants' evening blood glucose levels, the more pins they stuck in the doll representing their spouse
This association was present even after the researchers took into account the couples' relationship satisfaction. "When they had lower blood glucose, they felt angrier and took it out on the dolls representing their spouse," Bushman said, according to the April 14, 2014 news release, Lashing out at your spouse? Check your blood sugar. "Even those who reported they had good relationships with their spouses were more likely to express anger if their blood glucose levels were lower." But it wasn't just the dolls who took the brunt of the anger. After the 21 days, the couples came into the laboratory to take part in an experimental task.
The study's participants were told they would compete with their spouse to see who could press a button faster when a target square turned red on the computer – and the winner on each trial could blast his or her spouse with loud noise through headphones. In reality, though, they weren't playing against their spouse – they were playing against a computer that let them win about half the time.
Each time they "won," the participants decided how loud of a noise they would deliver to their spouse and how long it would last. Their spouses were in separate rooms during the experiment, so participants didn't know they weren't really delivering the noise blast.
"Within the ethical limits of the lab, we gave these participants a weapon that they could use to blast their spouse with unpleasant noise," Bushman said, according to the April 14, 2014 news release, "Lashing out at your spouse? Check your blood sugar."
Results showed that people with lower average levels of evening glucose sent louder and longer noise to their spouse – even after controlling for relationship satisfaction and differences between men and women
Further analysis showed that those who stuck more pins in the voodoo doll representing their spouse were more likely to deliver louder and longer noise blasts, as well. "We found a clear link between aggressive impulses as seen with the dolls and actual aggressive behavior," he said, according to the news release.
Bushman said that glucose is fuel for the brain. The self-control needed to deal with anger and aggressive impulses takes energy, and that energy is provided in part by glucose.
Why does low blood sugar make people more prone to anger and aggression?
"Even though the brain is only 2 percent of our body weight, it consumes about 20 percent of our calories. It is a very demanding organ when it comes to energy," he explained in the news release. "It's simple advice but it works: Before you have a difficult conversation with your spouse, make sure you're not hungry." A grant from the National Science Foundation funded the research.