Have you ever lashed out at someone when you’ve been hungry? Many of us will have, and the fact that our fuse is shorter than usual is no coincidence.
So, what happens to our bodies to make us like this?
What is hunger in the first place?
Once your body has finished digesting and using up the energy from your last meal, your blood sugar and insulin levels drop. In response to this, ghrelin is produced in the gut and travels to the brain, letting it know that sustenance is needed. The brain then commands the release of a second hormone called neuropeptide Y, which stimulates appetite.
Once you have answered the call and filled up on a good meal, your stomach gets to work on digestion. Nerves in your stomach sense stretching that lets your brain know you’re full up. Three other hormones also secreted by your digestive system take messages to the brain: cholecystokinin (CCK), GLP-1 and PYY. CCK helps to improve digestion by slowing down the rate at which food is emptied from the stomach into the small intestine, as well as stimulating the production of molecules that help to break down food. GLP-1 tells the pancreas to release more insulin and also reduces appetite. The hormone PYY is secreted into the bloodstream by the small intestine after eating. It binds to receptors in the brain to make you feel full up.
Once all of the food is digested, the blood sugar and insulin levels drop and ghrelin is produced once more, so the hunger cycle continues.
Food trends in 2016
Food trends in 2016
1/11 Celeriac root
We had a kale obsession in 2015, but 2016’s vegetable sine qua non is predicted to be the knobbly celeriac root. Celeriac milk (Tom Hunt at Poco in Bristol serves it with winter mussels and wild water celery), celeriac cooked in Galician beef fat (from Adam Rawson of Pachamama, hot new chef in the capital) and salt-baked celeriac (to be found in Matthew and Iain Pennington’s kitchens at The Ethicurean in the West Country) are just a few examples.
2/11 Middle Eastern food
The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook (£24.95, Phaidon) by grand-dame Salma Hage, author of the bestseller The Lebanese Kitchen (whose halva is pictured here), is out in April
© Liz & Max Haarala Hamilton
3/11 Non-alcoholic cocktails
Grain Store mixologist Tony Conigliaro has created Roman Redhead, a riot of red grape juice, beetroot, pale ale and verjus, and Rose Iced Tea (black tea, rose petals, anise essence, pictured here)
The discerning will be slurping Hepple gin – from chef Valentine Warner and cocktail guru Nick Strangeway – which is punctuated with bog-myrtle nuances
5/11 Argyll and Bute
Restaurant followers are getting in a froth about Pam Brunton in Scotland, who opened the Inver restaurant in Argyll and Bute to acclaim last year
6/11 Andy Oliver’s Som Saa
One of the most eagerly awaited restaurants of 2016 will be the permanent incarnation of Andy Oliver’s remarkable pop-up Som Saa opening very soon in east London. Oliver, who worked at Thai god David Thompson’s Nahm in Bangkok, raised a whopping £700,000 through crowdfunding, and is renowned for his piquant Thai flavours and obsessive attention to detail, including in his home ferments and DIY coconut cream
© Adam Weatherley
Another ruminant in vogue is venison, with Sainsbury’s doubling its line for 2016. It provides a protein-packed punch, with B vitamins and iron, and it’s low in fat. Its entry into the mainstream is in part thanks to the Scottish restaurant Mac and Wild, just opened in London, whose Celtic head chef Andy Waugh (who also runs the Wild Game Co) has been touting it as street food for years (his venison burger pictured here)
From Brett Graham’s The Ledbury to Angela Hartnett’s kitchens at Lime Wood Hotel in the New Forest, Cabrito is the go-to goat supplier among the chef cognoscenti (roasted loin of kid pictured here) – but this year, domestic cooks can get in on the action, as Sushila Moles and James Whetlor of Cabrito offer their meat through Ocado
Mike Lusmore / mikelusmore.com
Coffee sage George Crawford is launching the much-anticipated Cupsmith with his partner, Emma. Crawford believes that 2016 is the year purist coffee will finally meet the masses; Cupsmith’s mission will be to make craft coffee as popular as craft beer on the high street. The company roasts Arabica beans in small batches, improving its quality – but sells it online, at cupsmith.com, in an approachable way: expect cheerful packaging and names such as Afternoon Reviver Coffee (designed for drinking with milk – no matter how uncouth, most of us want milk) and Glorious Espresso
10/11 120-day-old steak
Hanging meat for extremely long lengths of time has become an art. In Cumbria, Lake Road Kitchen’s James Cross is plating up 120-day-old steak (pictured here). The beef is from influential “ager” Dan Austin of Lake District Farmers, who is currently investigating the individual bacterial cultures that go into this maturing process
11/11 Lotus root
Diners can expect root-to-stem dining - cue the full lotus deployed by the Michelin-starred Indian Benares in its kamal kakdi aur paneer korma
When the mind takes over
When our bodies tell us we are hungry, it’s an innate reaction – the hormones in our systems let us know of the need for sustenance. But when our minds get involved, it’s a whole different story.
There’s not much nutritional value in a bacon sandwich or a frosted cronut, for example, so it’s not a "need" for a treat, it’s a "want".
This is because the very first time you experienced a cronut, the mesolimbic centre of your brain (the region that processes pleasure) lit up, as the fatty, sugary goodness of the treat released chemicals known as opioids that bind with receptors in the brain.
This triggers the release of dopamine, the feel-good hormone that makes us happy. It’s actually the same one that is released when we fall in love. Your brain remembers this response, and is encouraging you to munch on that delicious cronut to repeat the pleasurable feeling.
When hanger kicks in
When we are hungry, our brains are essentially starved of glucose, meaning that our ability to control our emotions is reduced, as is our ability to concentrate. This lack of concentration can affect everything we do, causing silly mistakes that we’d never normally make and potentially making us slur our words. Complying with what’s socially acceptable becomes much harder, which is why you are more likely to snap at someone. Overall, your ability to control your actions is drastically reduced.
There is also a genetic reason linking hunger and anger, as they are both controlled by common genes. Neuropeptide Y is a product of one such gene, and is released into the brain when you’re hungry. As this chemical also regulates anger, high levels caused by hunger tend to also cause people to be angry. It’s important to also think of hanger as a survival mechanism. If a hungry animal was to stand back and let others eat before them, they could die as a result. Getting angry may be their only way of obtaining a meal!
Dealing with hanger
Although you will be tempted, resist reaching for that bag of crisps or chocolate bar, as they will both make you ‘hangrier’ in the long run. Instead, opt for nutrient-rich, natural foods that are packed full of healthy calories. These foods, such as avocados and nuts, will keep hunger at bay much longer, and should stop you from feeling hangry.
Ella Carter and Philip Watts write for How It Works Magazine. Issue 82 out now, RRP £4.25. Follow the magazine on Twitter:Reuse content