As much as I adore my wife, I’ve had some knock-down drag-outs with her. Who among us can say they never fight with their partner?
Well, I just read a fascinating study from Ohio State University revealing a surprising reason for our arguments …
This finding comes from such an interesting (and fun) experiment, I must share the details.
Researchers looked at 107 married couples. For 21 days, participants were given voodoo dolls they were told represented their spouses. They also were given permission to stick as many as 51 pins daily into the dolls, depending on how peeved they were with their partner.1
During the same time, couples tested their blood-sugar levels before breakfast in the morning and before bed in the evening.
So what factor determined how many pins the poor dolls had to endure?
Blood glucose levels. The lower the participants’ evening blood-glucose levels, the more pins they stuck in the dolls.
What’s more, this held true even after the researchers took into account the couples’ relationship satisfaction.
In other words, even participants who said they were very happy with their spouses took their anger out on the dolls if they were hungry.
The dolls weren’t the only ones to suffer. After the first study was over, researchers brought the couples into the lab for another experiment.
This time they were told they would compete with their spouse to see who could press a button the fastest. The winners could blast their spouse with loud noise through headphones.
As it happened, they weren’t actually playing against their spouses. Instead, they were playing against a computer that let them win about half the time.
Each time they “won,” the participants decided how loud of a noise they would deliver to their spouse and how long it would last.
Their spouses were in separate rooms during the experiment, so participants didn’t know they weren’t really delivering the blast.
Results resembled those in the voodoo doll study. Participants with lower average levels of evening glucose sent louder and longer blasts to their spouses. This was true even of those who expressed high levels of relationship satisfaction.
Why these results?
To control aggressive impulses, your brain requires energy. The primary source of that energy is glucose, which we get from food. So the less glucose we have, the less we’re able to control aggression.
So, what do we learn from this study?
First, when your spouse is hungry, never give him or her access to sharp objects.
But seriously, if you’ve forgotten to pick up your husband’s dry cleaning, accidentally backed into a pole while driving your wife’s car, or accepted a dinner invitation to your annoying neighbor’s cocktail party, wait until after dinner to bring it up.
And if you need to have a serious discussion with your spouse, NEVER do it before breakfast.
Do you find that you fight more with your partner when you’re hungry? I, for one, am going to have to pay more attention to the timing of arguments with my wife.
It’s just possible that I’m a perfect husband and my wife simply needs to eat a little more.
Steve Sisskind, M.D.
Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.
As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.
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1. Bushman BJ, Dewall CN, Pond RS Jr, Hanus MD. Low glucose relates to greater aggression in married couples. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2014;111(17):6254-6257. PMID: 24733932.