Low blood sugar appears to cause aggression and relationship disharmony

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Back in 2011 I wrote a blog post that focused on a case of alleged domestic violence. In short, a judge had come home after work, but his wife was busy giving support to a visitor. The judge took himself off upstairs as dinner was clearly going to be delayed. Later that evening, it was alleged the judge repeatedly punched his wife in the face. The judge was subsequently found guilty. In my blog post, I put forward the idea that perhaps the delayed dinner was a factor in the alleged violence. I suggested that hunger and low blood sugar can trigger mood changes and increased aggression and excitability that could contribute to violence and anti-social behaviour.

I was therefore very interested to read a new study in which researchers attempted to assess the relationship between blood sugar levels and aggression in married couples [1].

Aggressive impulses were assessed by asking individuals to stick pins in a voodoo doll representing their partner (I know, not necessarily a nice thought). Aggressive behaviour was assessed by allowing individuals to play sounds into headphones worn by their partner. Individuals were free to choose the loudness and level of the sound. Louder and more sustained sounds were taken as a sign of higher aggression.

The researchers found that lower blood sugar levels were associated with an increase in both aggressive impulses andaggressive behaviour.

Of course, undue hunger and low blood sugar may have some other adverse effects too, such as driving individuals to overeat (often none-too-healthy foods, too) and drink more alcohol than they otherwise would.

In short, those seeking to make healthy eating and harmonious relationships as easy as possible should avoid getting too hungry. A snack of something sustaining (e.g. nuts, biltong, cold meat, a hard-boiled egg) in the late afternoon or early evening will usually do the trick.


1. Bushman BJ, et al. Low glucose relates to greater aggression in married couples. PNAS USA 2014 Apr 14. [Epub ahead of print]


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