Anger Management: Eat Something!
April 15, 2014

Low Blood Sugar Levels Create Conflict Among Spouses

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Those Snickers commercials suggesting that people aren’t quite themselves when they’re hungry might not be all that far off, according to a new Ohio State University-led study which claims that low blood sugar levels could be responsible for creating conflicts between husbands and wives.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the OSU team recruited 107 married couples and had them complete a relationship satisfaction survey. Each husband and wife was then given a voodoo doll to represent their spouse, as well as 51 pins.

At the end of each day for 21 consecutive days, each subject inserted those pins into the doll based on how angry they were with their significant other that particular evening. They did this alone, without their husband or wife being present, and the number of pins that were inserted into the dolls were recorded.

They also used a blood glucose meter to measure their sugar levels before breakfast each morning and before bed each evening, and according to the Associated Press, the study authors found that people with the lowest scores pushed in twice as many pins as those with the highest blood glucose levels.

The study also discovered that the spouses were usually not angry with each other, the AP added. Co-author Richard Pond Jr. of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington said that people did not put any pins in the voodoo dolls approximately 70 percent of the time, and that the average for the entire study was slightly over one pin per person per night.

However, Pond also noted that three people put in all 51 pins at least once, and one individual did so twice. He noted that there is a clear biological association between behavior and eating: the brain consumes approximately 20 percent of the body’s calories, despite comprising just two percent of a person’s total body weight.

Following the 21 day experiment, the couples were brought into the laboratory and told that they were going to be playing a game against their spouses. Each husband and wife were told they would be competing against their significant other to see who could push a button faster once a target square turned red on the computer, and that the victor on each trial would be able to blast his or her spouse with a loud noise through their headphones.

In actuality, however, they weren’t playing against their spouse – they were taking on a computer that only let them win about half of the time. Each time they won, they were allowed to choose the length and intensity of the noise, although the spouses were in different rooms and the noises were never actually delivered.

Even so, those individuals with lower average nighttime glucose levels opted to send louder and longer noises to their spouses, even when the researchers controlled for relationship satisfaction levels and the differences between men and women. Additionally, it was found that those who stuck more pins in voodoo dolls were also more likely to deliver louder and longer noise blasts to their husband or wife, the authors reported.

“Results suggest that interventions designed to provide individuals with metabolic energy might foster more harmonious couple interactions. Food could be a potential tool for curbing aggression by bolstering resources for effective self-control,” particularly in stressful settings “such as in prisons, psychiatric hospitals and schools,” the authors wrote, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“People who are hungry are often very cranky,” lead author Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University in Columbus, added in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. “If couples have a sensitive topic to discuss, it would be really smart to do it over dinner or better yet after dinner. They should definitely not do it on an empty stomach.”