We don’t give nearly enough credit to the sensitivity of the human body, nor the ability of food to keep you emotionally balanced or throw you right off the rails. In reality, food can make you sad, food can make you happy and invariably, food can make you mad!
Known not so endearingly as “food-swings,” it is becoming more and more evident that some foods have real a super power to totally disrupt internal harmony and send you searching for a scrap. Researchers are now saying that abrupt changes in behavior, angry tendencies and sudden “out of character” thoughts or actions may be the result of something you ate at your last meal.
A study out of the University of California demonstrated that the more trans fatty acids we consume, the angrier we become. This is because trans fats interfere with the metabolism of omega-3s – the essential fatty acids that we need to keep us perky and balanced. Lack of omega-3s has been clearly linked not only to depression but also to antisocial behavior.
The study surveyed 945 men and women about their trans fat intake, as well as their levels of aggression. When the survey results were adjusted for outlying factors, such as age and use of alcohol and tobacco, researchers found a strong link between aggressive behavior and the consumption of high levels of trans fats.
Lead author Dr. Beatrice Golomb says, “we found that greater trans fatty acids were associated with greater aggression. This adds further rationale to recommendations to avoid eating trans fats as their detrimental effects may extend beyond the person who consumes them.”
The University of California study does not prove causation between trans fats and aggression; it has been theorized that angry people simply gravitate towards junk food more than others in an attempt to alleviate their anger. However, it may be a vicious cycle between feeling angry and eating trans fats; a person eats trans fat-filled snacks to try and feel better, instead feels worse, which results in more anger.
Trans fatty acids, or trans fats as they are more commonly referred to, are “fake” fats that clog arteries, increase the levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL) and lower high density lipoproteins (HDL) in the blood. These deadly fat impostors are formed when vegetable oils harden to create shortening or margarine.
However, trans fats are prevalent in more foods than shortening and margarine, and we often consume them without knowing it. Fried cookies, chips, frozen waffles, and crackers can contain from 30 to 50 percent trans fatty acids. Donuts, an American staple, may contain up to 40 percent, depending on the brand.
These dangerous fats are added to processed foods to make them more palatable, increase their shelf life and improve flavor. In fact, 80 percent of trans fats come from processed foods, while the remainder come from meat and dairy.
The FDA has only been aware of the dangers of trans fats for 20 years, and in the 1980s they were even thought to be safer than natural saturated fats such as coconut oil and beef tallow. Studies demonstrating the serious detriments of trans fats to our diet were brought to the FDA in the early 1990s, after which six years of silence ensued.
In November of 2013, the USDA made the determination that partially hydrogenated fats are not “generally recognized as being safe for use in foods.” However, the complete removal of these fats from our food supply will take a very long time because at this time, their removal is entirely voluntary. There are still a great number of popular foods that contain high levels of these dangerous partially hydrogenated fats.
Processed carbs and sugar substitutes
Processed carbs are another food that studies have linked to angry behaviors. Nutritionist Natalie Duhamel states that along with paving the way for cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, refined sugar can make people feel depressed, angry and even promote a tendency towards violence.
According to Dr. Alex Richardson of Oxford University, “prison studies suggest that many inmates have poor blood sugar control, compounded by a high-sugar diet. We all know how it it feels when blood sugar drops – we feel moody, foggy. Apply that to someone with a disturbed background.”
Nutritionist Nicolette Pace, who believes strongly in the connection between anger and food, says that refined carbs may make us feel good in an instant but it is short-lived. Foods loaded with empty calories just don’t give the body what it needs to cope with the stresses of everyday life.
Phenylalanine is an amino acid naturally found in many proteins such as meat, milk, bananas and eggs. However, this natural amino acid is found in an isolated, processed form in aspartame, the artificial sweetener used in NutraSweet, Equal and some diet sodas, as well as a number of other products. Fifty percent of aspartame is composed of phenylalanine.
Conditions such as ADD, ADHD and behavioral and emotional disorders have been linked to high levels of phenylalanine in the body and brain.
Not eating enough
Not only do certain foods promote aggressive behavior, but if you have a tendency to skip meals or live a very stressed life, you may also be susceptible to Jekyll and Hyde behavior. Another study found that when our serotonin levels dip, it triggers areas of the brain that regulate anger and may result in uncontrollable emotions.
In addition, deficiencies in nutrients, like magnesium or manganese, vitamin C, or some B vitamins, may shorten our fuse, so to speak. Oxford University researchers tested the theory of nutritional deficiency and behavior with prison inmates.
They found that when they gave inmates vitamin supplements, they demonstrated less aggressive behavior. According to study leaders, there was a strong correlation between nutritional deficiencies and a propensity towards aggressive behavior.
Once again, the answer to stable emotions and the ability to cope with difficult situations is real food – just eat real food. Investigative journalist and health advocate Michael Pollan warns us to avoid anything that is an edible-like substance and stick to real food. He gives readers a list of rules for determining whether or not something has any nutritional value.