When it comes to hunger, there’s two types of people. Some just get hungry, maybe a little bit sad that there’s no food around, and just try to find something to eat. Others — and I think we all know someone in this latter group — get irritable and sometimes even hostile when they have an empty stomach. It’s called “hanger” or being “hangry,” and now scientists think it might actually have a genetic link.
Genetic testing company 23andMe ran a massive survey of over 100,000 people, asking if they experience this strange phenomenon, and saw a huge response. Over three quarters of people said they have experienced hangry feelings, and when responses were cross-referenced with the results of DNA tests from the participants they discovered something interesting.
A pair of papers using the 23andMe data have been published that show the link between certain genetic variants and feelings of hanger. A blog post on the company’s website dives into the nitty gritty details of the specific gene variations that seem to be connected to strong responses to hanger, explaining that they are both areas that have also been associated with various mental health quirks and personality conditions.
“Taken together, these results suggest that feeling angry and irritable when hungry may have origins in the genes that govern our personalities and mental health,” 23andMe writes. “While we initially expected feeling hangry to be more directly related to blood sugar regulation, these results are not a complete surprise because many of the genes involved in obesity implicate pathways that act in the brain.”
None of this is to say that feeling hangry is actually a mental ailment of any kind. It’s simply a discovery of a connection between a certain type of emotional response and two genetic variations that are also linked to personality and emotion. Neato!