Is dieting and low blood sugar making you 'hangry' and wrecking your relationship?
Is dieting and low blood sugar wrecking your relationship?
Imagine if all you needed to stop a ding-dong with your loved one as you step through the door at the end of the day was... a bit of chocolate on the way home. Not the usual nutritional recommendation from me granted, but here's why.
According to research from Ohio State University, low blood sugar levels in the evening (due perhaps to a crazy new diet you're following or accidentally skipping meals), leads to poorer self-control and higher levels of aggressive impulses towards your partner.
So instead of tender kisses and a 'How was your day darling?' you are ready to find any fault you can to trigger a barney.
The scientists from Ohio discovered the link between blood sugar and arguments from their 21-day study. They measured blood sugar levels at different points through the day and asked participants to stick between zero and 51 pins in a voodoo doll each evening, depending on how angry they felt towards their spouse.
After 21 days, everyone was invited into the laboratory where the winner of an inter-partner competition was invited to blast their spouse with a loud noise through headphones, again depending on their levels of anger towards them.
What the scientists revealed was that those with lower blood sugar stuck in more pins and gave the eardrums of their partners a louder and longer assault with the horrible noise compared with those with better blood sugar control.
The results stood, even after controlling for sex and relationship satisfaction.
If you dig a little deeper, these findings are perhaps not so surprising. Self-control is essentially the ability to override impulsive behaviour, including aggressive responses to those around you.
As researcher Brad Bushman and his team from the department of psychology at Ohio State University explain, self-control requires energy, and this energy is provided in part by glucose (also know as blood sugar), which is converted into neurotransmitters that power brain processes.
Low glucose levels can undermine self-control because people have insufficient energy to overcome negative impulses like losing your rag.
It has already been shown that self-control becomes more depleted as the day goes on, making it easier to be 'nicer' earlier before lunch, and increasingly harder the later it becomes.
This say the researchers, is partly because glucose breaks down into energy less effectively as the day wears on, but is also dependent on what and when we have eaten during the day.
You can see how being on some mad calorie-controlled diet that leaves your body half starving or simply accidently skipping meals doesn't help.
The implications of this study are fascinating. Should relationship counselling include dietary advice? Is the first thing you should grab as you walk through the door a biscuit to avoid a stroppy exchange with your husband?
Could you improve your self-control at work in the late afternoons simply by eating a decent lunch and mid-pm snack?
And more seriously, given that lovers quarrels and bad tempered exchanges can sadly escalate beyond hurtful words to physical aggression and violence, could eating sensibly and regularly throughout the day help to reduce the risk of domestic violence not just to partners, but possibly towards children too?
It's food for thought and something all of could probably do with taking a minute to dwell on.
A 'Balance-Your-Blood-Sugar' Day
For good blood sugar balance, plan your day so that you eat regularly and you eat the kinds of foods that optimise your energy as you move through the day.
* Breakfast: How about porridge or muesli with an apple for breakfast? If you don't fancy either, have a couple of poached, scrambled or boiled eggs with a piece of toast and some orange juice.
* Mid-morning. Tuck into some natural yoghurt with a banana.
* Stop for lunch. Grab a meal with a decent serving of protein such as fish, chicken, lean red meat, pulses, tofu or Quorn and add to it lots of salad or vegetables and a little slow release carbohydrate like a small serving of pasta, a small pitta bread of a small serving of noodles.
* Mid-afternoon: Have a handful of nuts and a pear
* Home-time: Have a few squares of dark chocolate on the way home. Either that or again a handful of nuts, this time mixed with some dried fruits, or a small smoothie. Anything to give your blood sugar a nice gentle lift to calm your tired, stressed brain and get it in the mood to relax and forgive rather than being wired and waiting for a spat.
Copyright. Amanda Ursell
Reference: Low glucose relates to greater aggression in married couples
. Brad J. Bushmana,b,c,1, C. Nathan DeWalld, Richard S. Pond, Jr.e, and Michael D. Hanusa, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Accepted by the Editorial Board March 17, 2014 (received for review January 13, 2014)