Finally, there’s scientific proof that we get hangry. Everybody knows it: You turn into a self-defeating jerk when you’re running on an empty stomach, which can often make it impossible to even decide where and what to eat, thus leaving you more hangry.
A study published last week in the journal Science proves that notion, or at least heavily supports it. Researchers at UCLA and Cambridge manipulated serotonin levels in test subjects, then had them make decisions about whether or not to accept fair and unfair offers. When serotonin levels were low, the subjects tended to reject unfair offers, even though it meant they got nothing at all. From Science:
In the current study, the researchers recruited 20 volunteers and asked them to fast the evening before the game. The next morning, some of the volunteers were given a drink chock-full of every amino acid the body needs to make protein, save tryptophan, an amino acid from which serotonin is manufactured. The result, says Crockett, is that the amino acids rush to the brain, “crowding out” any residual tryptophan and creating a temporary shortage of tryptophan and therefore serotonin. Control subjects were given drinks that contained tryptophan.
In addition to making hasty decisions, scientists found hungry people become assholes. From Cambridge:
Their findings highlight why some of us may become combative or aggressive when we haven’t eaten. The essential amino acid necessary for the body to create serotonin can only be obtained through diet. Therefore, our serotonin levels naturally decline when we don’t eat, an effect the researchers took advantage of in their experimental technique.
So there you go. You need to accept or reject a business deal? Look at an apartment or make an offer on a house? Take a long drive with your family? Eat something first. Preferably a turkey sandwich. Turkey has lots of tryptophan in it. Also have a coffee. Tryptophan can put you to sleep.
Deal Or No Deal? [Science]
Low Serotonin May Make Unfairness Seem Worse [UCLA Magazine]
New research explores role of serotonin in decision-making behaviour [Cambridge]
Big decisions ‘best made on full stomach’ [Telegraph UK]
Need to use your brain today? Then eat something [Slashfood]
[Photo: via Blue Diego/flickr