Food Can Make You Angry

Angry Eater | Photo: barkbud/Flickr/Creative Commons License

You know that Super Bowl commercial from a few years back for Snickers with Betty White? Where she's playing a game of pick-up football and, well, here, just watch:

The tagline of that entire campaign -- which featured everyday normal types (or, more accurately, everyday normal actor types) morphing into irritable minor celebrities because they haven't eaten in awhile -- is "you're not you when you're hungry." It's certainly something we can all relate to. We've all had those situations where we just couldn't seem to find time to eat: Overnight work sessions, long cross-country flights where we'd rather not disturb the finally not-screaming baby next to us, forgetting to make a trip to the concession stand before the latest "Lord of the Rings" movie starts. Your stomach growls, your head aches, your eyes may even become a little blurry. It sucks.

(Quick digression: It's amazing how often we ignore the urge to eat, figuring we'll simply get to it when we have the time. But would that be your same mindset if the desperate urge for action was coming from the other end of your digestive tract? I think not!)

But the worst feeling associated with not eating is the super-irritability that comes with it. You become a fully-muscled and greened-out Hulk in the middle of a traffic jam on the 405. But, as the ads tell us, you can avoid that anger by simply chewing on a Snickers or stuffing your face with whatever quick piece of sugar and salt that's lying around. You'll no longer be Betty White during your game of pick-up football. Unfortunately, what the ad isn't telling us is that the feeling's merely temporary. The piece of candy isn't a solution, but merely a masking agent. And once that mask wears off, you become an angry rage-filled monster.

That, at least, is the big takeaway from this report out of Boston's CBS affiliate:

Deficiencies in nutrients, magnesium or manganese, vitamin C, or some B vitamins may make a person hyperactive towards a stressor, a short fuse so to speak.

Processed and packaged foods, as usual, seem to be the biggest culprits in this mess. People eat them thinking they contain the nutrients needed for a good, healthy, non-anxiety producing diet and are left without the necessary ingredients to have a productive day. Meanwhile, foods like fish, eggs, beans, fruits and green leafy veggies should be the focal point of most diets in order to get your nutrients and keep you from being so prone to flying off the handle.

One of the most interesting parts of the report is its reference to a 2002 study from Oxford University wherein researchers gave a sub-section of prisoners a multivitamin along with their normal meals. The results:

The average number of "disciplinary incidents per 1000 person-days" dropped from 16 to 10.4 in the active group (p<0.001), which is a 35% reduction, whereas the placebo group only dropped by 6.7%. Especially violent incidents in the active group dropped by 37%, and in the placebo group only 10.1%.

Meaning the prisoners were fighting a whole lot less by simply getting their recommended assortment of vitamins. That's a pretty drastic change for the introduction of nothing more than a pill full of vitamins.

Maybe think of it all like this:

Remember the first "Batman" movie, the Tim Burton one, the one with Michael Keaton playing the Caped Crusader and Jack Nicholson hamming it up as Joker? You know that section in the middle where Joker has some kind of convoluted plan to wreck havoc on Gotham by delivering a deadly poison to the masses, but the only way the masses will get poisoned is through some unknown secret combination of everyday household products? (For instance, you can use hair conditioner on its own, but if you use it with soap and a facial cream, you're a goner.) In the movie, Gotham citizens die if they use the wrong combination of products. In reality, if we pick the wrong sorts of foods to eat, we become angrier than Bane. (And probably as coherent.)

Which is a long way of reminding everyone, once again, of two of the biggest rules when it comes to your health: 1) Listen to your body; 2) Read the labels on your food, people!

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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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Someone recently introduced me to the word "Hangry".

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Someone recently introduced me to the word "Hangry".