Anyone who has shopped for groceries while they're hungry can attest that it's a Bad Idea. Impulse purchases tend to surge when you want to eat and you wind up with a cart full of bad food in attractive packaging.
Now we've got some hard science to back up the anecdotal evidence, as Trace Dominguez explains in today's DNews dispatch.
According to new research published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology -- we like to keep a little light reading in the DNews break room -- it seems the body releases a particularly mischievous hormone when we're hungry.
Ghrelin -- pronounced GREL-in -- is a hormone released in the gastrointestinal tract when we haven't eaten in a while. It prompts the brain, with gradually increasing insistence, to start focusing on food.
RELATED: Can You Really Suppress Hunger With A Pill?
The new research suggests that, when ghrelin amps up into the red zone, it can cause powerful impulsive behavior above and beyond food seeking. This level of impulsivity can trigger bad decisions all over the cognitive map. When people behave impulsively, they simply don't correlate good decisions with reward, or bad decisions with consequences, a related study in Psychiatry Today concluded.
In this context, "impulsivity" is a specific scientific designation and can be tracked across different kinds of studies. The new research provides evidence that hunger triggers impulsivity. Previous studies associate impulsivity with poor decision-making and, in some case, established neuropsychiatric disorders.
The upshot is that it's ill-advised to make a decision -- any decision -- when you're hungry. You may be acting against your own best interests, and you won't even know it.
At this point, the discerning reader will be wondering about the "hangry" effect -- that sudden-onset phenomenon of hunger-induced anger. We've got you covered there, too. Click on over if you feel it's a good decision. Maybe get a snack first.
-- Glenn McDonald
Nature.com: The Stomach-Derived Hormone Ghrelin Increases Impulsive Behavior
Scientific American: Dopamine Determines Impulsive Behavior
Plos One: Suffering Makes You Egoist: Acute Pain Increases Acceptance Rates and Reduces Fairness during a Bilateral Ultimatum Game