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Study Finds Being ‘Hangry’ is a Real Thing

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Researchers say being hungry can make you more irritable and darken your mood. Valentina Barreto/Stocksy
  • New research finds that being “hangry,” a combination of hungry and angry, is a genuine mental state.
  • Experts say that being able to identify hunger-related emotions provides clues about how we can deal with them.
  • They also say that anyone noticing a significant drop in mood or change in irritability should speak with a doctor regarding their blood sugar levels and other markers.

We’ve all experienced it at one time or another – a pang of hunger that darkens your mood and can make you lash out at the slightest provocation.

It’s popularly called being “hangry,” both hungry and angry.

Now, research published today suggests not only is this emotional state genuine, but that hunger can influence our behavior in other ways.

Viren Swami, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University in England, told Healthline his wife was one of the reasons he decided to conduct this study.

“My wife is often saying that I’m hangry, but I didn’t think being hangry was real,” he admitted. “But mainly because I’m interested in the impact of hunger and eating on human emotions and behaviors.”

For this study, researchers used the experience sampling method to gather data that they used to better understand the ways that hunger can affect emotional outcomes in our everyday lives.

According to the researchers, the study participants were invited to respond to prompts asking them to complete brief surveys on multiple, semi-random occasions throughout the day.

There were 121 participants at the start, with 76 completing at least one survey per day for 21 days. A total of 64 participants completed the study by responding to the final questionnaire.

Participants were from 18 to 60 years old with an average age of 30. They were predominantly women.

During the three-week study period, participants responded to survey prompts five times per day.

These prompts asked participants to rate their emotional state as well as their feelings of hunger, irritability, and anger. They were also asked about how much time had passed since they last ate.

During the final questionnaire, researchers looked at different dietary behaviors, such as whether or not people ate when they felt irritated or when they had nothing to do.

They also assessed anger using the Buss and Perry Aggression Questionnaire, a commonly used tool to measure aggression in adults.

The researchers said the findings indicated that hunger was significantly associated with greater anger and irritability as well as lower pleasure over the study period of three weeks.

Swami said his study confirms that being “hangry” is real and that our feelings of hunger do negatively affect our emotions.

“Also, that being able to label those emotions, ‘I am hangry,’ provides clues about how those emotions can be dealt with,” he added.

“We know in general that when we experience emotions our minds survey our internal physiological states in order to construct an assessment of our mood,” said Dr. Timothy B. Sullivan, the chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Staten Island University Hospital, part of Northwell Health in New York.

He explained that for this reason, it’s easy to understand that states of hunger, or other conditions of physiological vulnerability, can “trick” our minds into associating those physiological sensations with moods.

“Indeed, the Theory of Constructed Emotion holds that mood states are fundamentally, largely a consequence of that process of introspection,” Sullivan told Healthline.

Sullivan pointed out that self-reports are one of the weakest sources of data.

“And in this instance, it is not clear whether or how the investigators could have blinded the subjects to the purpose of the study,” he said.

Sullivan concluded that, for this reason, “there is a strong possibility of confounding in that the subjects may have been cued to associate anger with periods of hunger.”

“I’m not surprised at these findings,” said Dr. Alex Dimitriu, an expert in psychiatry and sleep medicine and the founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine in California as well as BrainfoodMD.

“In the end, we are biological creatures and are programmed to get our needs met,” he told Healthline. “Part of that is being uncomfortable until we get what we need.”

Dimitriu noted that in his experience he’s seen pain, such as headaches or back pain, physical discomfort, and being sleep deprived, as reasons people can become irritable and aggressive.

“Anyone who notices a significant drop in mood or energy or change in irritability with hunger should at some point speak with a doctor and make sure blood sugar levels and lab values are within normal limits,” he advised.

This isn’t the first time that researchers have explored hunger’s effect on psychology.

Research that was published in 2013 analyzed the behavior of hungry people across 10 studies.

The findings showed that hungry people made more errors doing tasks and tended to have less self-control.

The researchers also analyzed data from war zones and reported that societal hunger could predict war killings, which they attributed to diminished self-control with aggression.

The study authors also reported that hunger made people more likely to think negative thoughts about racial minorities as well as increased thoughts about death.

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Health

Your Skin on Stress: Acne, Hair Loss, and More

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Stress can present itself through skin conditions like acne, inflammation, and more. How can you tell it’s from stress?

Your skin is your body’s largest organ. External issues can be a telltale sign that not all is well underneath.

While bottled serums and sheet masks possess a certain level of aesthetic and soothing allure, a solid skin care routine may not be enough to provide calm for your body’s complex systems.

The increased jump in cortisol can jumble up the messages your nerves decide to send, causing anything from an outbreak of hives to fine lines.

While this correlation between stress and skin has been known since ancient times, formal studies revealing the deeper connection only date back to the last two decades.

And yes, your diet or skin care products can cause skin concerns, but it’s also important to consider stress as a potential culprit — especially if a rash appears out of nowhere or persists long after you’ve tested for everything.

We’ve outlined eight proven ways that mental, physical, and hormonal stress changes your skin. But more importantly, we also tell you what you can do about it.

Even before looking internally, there’s one beaming factor that can physically stress out your skin and weaken its defenses: ultraviolet (UV) radiation. A carcinogenic (cancer-causing) component of sun exposure, it can have a negative effect on the skin.

Whether in the form of natural sunlight or more artificial means such as tanning beds, ultraviolet rays signal blood cells to rush to the exposed area in an attempt to repair it. This manifests as sunburns.

Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation may lead to darkened blemishes, moles, and even skin cancer. The best way to combat UV rays and sun stress is by applying sunscreen every morning.

On top of sunscreens, you can also oppose sun damage from the inside out. Research has linked certain nutrients to the ability to boost your skin’s natural sun protection.

Limonene, a chemical derived from citrus peels, has been studied for use in cancer prevention medicines. Eating citrus peel might also provide sun protection.

Fruits high in antioxidants and vitamin C (like strawberries and pomegranates) have the ability to protect your cells from the free radical damage caused by sun exposure.

It’s important to remember that eating these foods does not replace wearing sunscreen. You should still wear sunscreen in addition to considering eating foods high in limonene, vitamin C, and other antioxidants.

Hives, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, and rosacea are often a result of inflammation, but studies also show that when your brain is on overdrive, it can actually compromise your skin’s protective abilities.

In other words, stress makes it harder for your skin to regulate and stay balanced. It’s no wonder you might have an extra breakout during a sleepless week or after an intense argument.

Inflammation can also cause acne. But remember, some skin conditions like rosacea can look like acne, too. It’s important to note the difference before treating the conditions, including whether your irritation is a result of stress, allergies, or a harmful product.

Fighting stress inflammation begins with eliminating the cause. Finding out the exact reason behind your stress might be difficult or impossible, but there are still ways to tame the fires with food, exercise, or therapy.

Whether it’s the impending dread of finals week or spontaneous heartbreak, we’ve all likely suffered at the hands of a stubborn pimple (or two).

Stress is highly associated with acne, especially for women. It can mix up our skin’s nerve signals, causing imbalanced hormones and chemicals that increase oil production.

While it’s nearly impossible to remove stress from the equation entirely, there are ways to overcome it. Keep 5- and 10-minute stress-relief tricks handy, and try longer stress-management techniques, like exercise, to increase your body’s abilities to adapt.

And most acne reacts to topical treatments, too. The secret ingredient in our most beloved anti-acne products is often a beta-hydroxy acid known as salicylic acid.

This oil-soluble chemical penetrates pores extremely well for unclogging and cleaning, but this doesn’t mean that it’s exempt from its own set of cons. Too much or too strong salicylic acid can dry out and even irritate your skin.

So with careful application in mind, nightly spot treatments are helpful for targeting troubled areas without harming the skin in the surrounding areas.

There’s no one way to experience stress. Have you ever unconsciously pulled your hair, bitten your fingernails, or picked at both? That could be the stress hormone, cortisol, triggering your body’s fight-or-flight response.

Before you assume it’s stress, though, you might want to check in with a dermatologist and doctor to rule out other potential issues. For example, scaly or waxy skin could be eczema. Or hair loss or peeling nails could be due to insufficient nutrition from skipping meals.

In the time being, avoid extremely hot showers to prevent further damaging your skin and scalp. Bring more consistency to your day by aiming to exercise regularly and eating a nutrient-dense diet of fruits and vegetables.

The skin might get thinner in cases of abnormally high cortisol levels. Cortisol results in the breakdown of dermal proteins, which can cause the skin to appear almost paper-thin, as well as bruising and tearing easily.

However, this symptom is most noticeably associated with Cushing syndrome. Also known as hypercortisolism, this hormonal disease includes additional symptoms such as glucose intolerance, muscle weakness, and a weakened immune system (you may experience increased infections).

If you think that you may have Cushing syndrome, make an appointment with a healthcare professional. In most cases, medication can be prescribed for the management of cortisol levels.

In the face of severe stress, your epidermis can quickly become weakened, increasing your risk for infections and environmental pathogens. This also slows down your skin’s natural ability to heal wounds, scars, and acne.

To repair your skin barrier, you can use products with glycerin and hyaluronic acid.

The same remedies you use to combat sun exposure apply here, too. Consume antioxidant-rich food for a similar effect and strengthened internal healing.

In addition to keeping skin hydrated internally (through water consumption), focus on using products based on zinc, sal (Shorea robusta), and flaxseed oil. These ingredients are shown to your keep your skin moisturized and provide a packed healing punch for wound healing.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a comment regarding the undeniable dark circles around your eyes, then you know just how much sleep deprivation reveals itself physically. And yep, that’s stress, too.

Our bodies keep adrenaline running on a constant cycle while in fight-or-flight mode, including late at night.

If you’re already trying meditation and yoga for sleep, ramp up your bedtime routine by using essential oil diffusers, turning on white noise machines, and avoiding screens in the 2-hour time span before sleep.

For sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, CBD oil and melatonin pills may act as more reliable remedies.

From the furrow of a brow to a frown, psychological stress inevitably finds a way to make permanent evidence of our emotions.

So what’s one to do about it? You can try face yoga. Arguably safer than Botox, face yoga can lead to similar results, although the commitment to doing this every day might a hard to do.

By targeting the facial muscles we subconsciously use every day, through pointed massage techniques in high-tension areas such as our foreheads, brows, and jawline, these exercises can counteract developing wrinkles and leave skin flexible and resilient.

For additional assistance, applying facial pressure with a chilled jade roller activates the lymphatic system, which can also reduce puffiness and the appearance of stress damage on the skin.

Stress does not manifest the same in every person, but every person ultimately experiences stress to some extent. Instead of comparing stress levels with others to gauge whether your stress is “all that bad,” choose to care for yourself when you need it.

While we can’t control the myriad ways stress rears its head, we can control how we choose to react to it. Remembering to care for ourselves and for our skin is one of the small ways we can slowly but surely reduce stress.

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Skin Barrier Function and How to Repair and Care for It

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Your skin barrier protects your body from free radicals. Harsh environments are often the cause of damage. Keep it protected using oils, ceramides, and more.

Beauty boutique and drugstore shelves are packed with products that aim to protect and rejuvenate your skin. Some of them exfoliate, some plump, and others moisturize.

All these products share the fact that they act on your body’s outermost layer, which is called the skin barrier.

But what exactly is your skin barrier, what’s its purpose, and what can cause damage?

In this article, we’ll help answer those questions and also explore the steps you can take to protect and restore this vital defensive layer.

Your skin is made up of layers, each of which performs important functions in protecting your body.

The outermost layer, called the stratum corneum, is often described as a brick wall. It consists of tough skin cells called corneocytes that are bound together by mortar-like lipids. This is your skin barrier.

Inside the skin cells, or “bricks,” you’ll find keratin and natural moisturizers. The lipid layer contains:

  • cholesterol
  • fatty acids
  • ceramides

This fantastically thin brick wall is literally keeping you alive. Without it, various harmful environmental toxins and pathogens could penetrate your skin and cause adverse effects inside your body.

Additionally, without your skin barrier, the water inside your body would escape and evaporate, leaving you completely dehydrated.

Your skin barrier is essential for your overall health and needs to be protected to help your body function properly.

Daily, your skin defends against a barrage of threats, many of which come from outside your body, and a few come from within.

Some of the external and internal factors that can affect your skin barrier include:

The role of the acid mantle

Your skin barrier is slightly acidic. This acidity (the acid mantle) helps create a kind of buffer against the growth of harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi that could damage your skin and lead to infections and other skin conditions.

It’s especially important to protect the acid mantle around wounds since the skin’s acidity is necessary for many of the biological interactions that occur during the healing process.

Sometimes, a health condition like diabetes or incontinence can change your skin’s acidity, weakening this buffer. For people with these conditions, experts recommend slightly more acidic skin care products.

When your skin barrier is not functioning properly, you may be more prone to developing the following skin symptoms and conditions:

Given the importance of maintaining your skin barrier and acid mantle, what can you do to keep them both healthy and functional? Let’s look at five strategies that can help.

Simplify your skin care routine

If you’re performing a complicated daily skin regimen involving a basketful of products, you may be inadvertently weakening your skin barrier. Consider talking with a dermatologist or another skin care professional about which products are essential and most effective.

If you’re exfoliating, notice how your skin reacts to the method you use. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, those with sensitive skin and darker skin tones may want to use a soft cloth and a mild chemical exfoliant.

Some types of scrubs and brushes may temporarily damage your skin barrier.

Pay attention to pH

Your skin’s delicate acid mantle hovers around a pH of 4.7. But the pH of some skin products can range from 3.7 to 8.2.

Researchers recommend cleansing with a product that has a pH between 4.0 and 5.0.

Keeping your skin’s pH at a healthy level may help protect you from skin conditions like dermatitis, ichthyosis, acne, and Candida albicans infections. Although not all products list their pH, some do.

Try a plant oil to replenish your skin barrier

Research from 2018 suggests that certain plant oils may help repair the skin barrier and also prevent your skin barrier from losing moisture. Many of these oils have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects, too.

Some of the most effective plant oils to consider using on your skin include:

There are many ways you can use plant oils on your skin.

You can apply creams and lotions that contain one or more of these oils as an ingredient. Or you can pour a small amount of the oil into the palm of your hand and then massage it gently into your skin until it’s absorbed.

Look for formulations that include ceramides

Ceramides are waxy lipids found in especially high concentrations in the stratum corneum. They are crucial for making sure your skin barrier functions properly.

Research from 2019 shows that products containing pseudo-ceramides may help improve the dryness, itchiness, and scaling caused by a poorly functioning barrier. Ceramide-rich moisturizers may also strengthen the structural integrity of your skin barrier.

Ceramide moisturizers may be especially helpful if you have acne. In acne-prone skin, the barrier is often impaired, and acne treatments can leave skin dry and reddened. Products containing ceramides may also help protect darker skin. According to a 2014 review of studies, darker skin tones were shown to contain lower ceramide levels.

Try moisturizers containing hyaluronic acid, petrolatum, or glycerin

Dry skin is a common problem, and moisturizers are the often-recommended solution.

An occlusive moisturizer aids the skin barrier by reducing the amount of water loss from your skin. These products leave a thin film on your skin that helps prevent moisture loss.

One of the most frequently recommended occlusive moisturizers is petrolatum, which experts say can block as much as 99% of water loss from your skin.

Like occlusive moisturizers, humectants can also improve barrier function. Humectants work by drawing water — either from the environment or from inside your body — and binding it into the skin barrier. Researchers recommend products that contain hyaluronic acid, glycerin, honey, and urea.

How to use

Gently apply moisturizer to your skin immediately after you get out of the shower, when your skin is moist.

Not all skin care ingredients work for everyone. That’s why you may want to try a few different products to determine which one works best for keeping your skin healthy, protected, and well moisturized.

The outermost layer of your skin, known as your skin barrier, defends your body against environmental threats while simultaneously protecting your body’s critical water balance.

Symptoms such as dryness, itching, and inflammation can alert you to a disturbance in this important barrier.

You can help repair your skin’s barrier by:

  • simplifying your skin care regimen
  • using products with a suitable pH
  • using a moisturizer that contains ceramides or a humectant like hyaluronic acid

Moisturizers with petrolatum can also help your skin barrier seal in moisture.

Your skin barrier is your body’s frontline defense against everything the environment can throw at you. Keeping it healthy is much more than a cosmetic concern.

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Health

‘Apple’ Body Shape: Does It Matter for Health?

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Bodies come in different shapes and sizes, making us all unique.

Though there is immense pressure from society to look a certain way, it’s important to prioritize your health over beauty ideals — and to keep in mind that “health” looks different for everyone.

For some time, people have described body shapes by comparing them to fruit, particularly pears and apples. People who have “pear-shaped” bodies are often thought to be healthier than those with “apple-shaped” bodies.

But is this true?

This article dives into the apple and pear body shapes, the research behind them, and whether they truly mean anything for your health.

People have used fruit terms to describe body shapes for many years because this is an easy way to describe body types without using more scientific, formal terms.

The “apple” body shape is known in the scientific community as “android,” meaning that most of the fat is stored in the midsection and less fat is stored in the hips, buttocks, and thighs.

People with android body types tend to have a larger waist-to-hip ratio, meaning their waist is larger or close to equivalent in circumference to their hips.

In contrast, the “pear” body shape is known as “gynoid,” which means more fat is stored in the hips, buttocks, and thighs than in the midsection.

People with gynoid body types often have a smaller waist-to-hip ratio, which means their hips are usually wider than their waist.

Though there are more formal terms to describe body shapes, the average person can better imagine an apple or a pear than an android or gynoid body type.

First things first: The way a person’s body looks does not automatically tell you whether they are healthy.

That said, certain body shapes may be at an increased risk of negative health outcomes, according to numerous research studies.

One 2020 review of 72 studies found that people with greater fat distribution in the stomach area (an apple shape) had a significantly higher risk of death from all causes than those with pear-shaped bodies.

In one 2019 study involving 2,683 postmenopausal women, those who had an apple body type — more fat in the midsection and less fat in the legs — were three times more likely to have heart disease than those with a pear body type.

Interestingly, having a pear body type had a protective effect against heart disease, reducing risk by up to 40%.

Another study found that apple-shaped bodies were significantly associated with an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, regardless of body mass index (BMI). (Remember: The BMI has limitations as a predictor of health, especially for People of Color.)

Also, a small study including 49 males found that despite having the same BMI, body weight, and body fat percentage, men with more android fat had lower endothelial function, which leads to poorer blood flow in the body.

They also had higher insulin resistance, blood lipid levels, and heart rates, suggesting worsened heart and metabolic health.

Finally, a 2021 review of 31 studies found that excess weight around the midsection is significantly associated with greater risk of heart disease.

The review found that for every 10-cm (3.9-inch) increase in waist circumference, there was a 3% and 4% increased risk of heart disease for women and men, respectively.

Other negative health outcomes — such as kidney disease, lung and colorectal cancers, and even cognitive decline — are linked with central obesity (the presence of excess fat in the midsection).

Ultimately, most research suggests that fat distribution — not necessarily body weight or BMI — can affect health outcomes.

Though using fruit metaphors to describe body types may be convenient, it’s not ideal.

Using objects to describe a person’s body type creates the opportunity for others to make general assumptions about someone’s health and body.

For instance, people with higher body weight and body fat tend to experience weight bias in healthcare settings, meaning that healthcare professionals may focus only on their weight, regardless of their reason for seeking medical care.

This can cause people to lose trust in healthcare professionals and can delay diagnosis, treatment, and care.

Making assumptions about people’s health based on their body type can also be a disservice to those with pear-shaped bodies, as the healthcare professionals they interact with may not screen for health conditions based on their body type.

Further, using such terms can worsen a person’s body image by suggesting that they do not have the “ideal” body type. The binary nature of these terms also fails to recognize that there are other body types besides pear- and apple-shaped ones.

What’s more, positioning one body type as superior to another can lead to judgment and stigma against people with other body types. No one needs to modify their body to resemble another’s, and research suggests that body shape isn’t a choice, anyway.

Genetics can play a role in your body shape. Some people have longer torsos and shorter legs, while others may have shorter torsos and longer legs or be somewhere in between. Your height and limb length can play a huge role in the way your body looks.

Hormones can also play a role. For example, hormonal differences between men and women can lead to differences in fat storage. Men often store more fat in their stomach area, while women tend to store more fat in their hips, legs, and buttocks.

As women’s estrogen levels decline with age, their bodies tend to store more fat in the stomach region and less in the lower body.

While research has linked apple or android body types to greater risk of chronic disease, this is not always the case. Someone with more fat in the stomach area can be in terrific health, while someone who has a different body type may not be.

Finally, the available research is mostly based on observational data, which means it can’t confirm cause-and-effect relationships. Thus, while apple body types are associated with increased health risks, it’s not certain that the apple body shape is the cause of those risks.

There are many ways that you can better understand your body composition and health risk, such as:

  • Waist circumference: A larger waist circumference (greater than 35 inches or 85 cm in women; greater than 40 inches or 101.6 cm in men) indicates greater body fat in the abdominal area and greater risk of chronic disease.
  • Waist-to-hip ratio: This ratio compares the difference in waist and hip circumference, which can help indicate fat distribution. A ratio of greater than 0.80 in women and greater than 0.95 in men suggests greater fat stores in the stomach area. Those with a higher waist-to-hip ratio are at greater risk of chronic disease.
  • Body fat percentage: This can tell you how much fat is stored in your body. While this may be generally helpful, not all tests tell you where the fat is stored.
  • Lab tests: Blood work can tell you and healthcare professionals how your health is, regardless of your body type.

While these measurements and tests can be helpful, healthcare professionals shouldn’t rely on a single test to make a judgment about someone’s health. Instead, they should do follow-up tests if they have any concerns.

Also, it’s important to look at health from all angles, including diet, physical activity, sleep habits, stress, genetics, and mental well-being.

People often use the terms “pear” and “apple” to describe how bodies look and how fat is distributed. Historically, these terms have been used as indicators of a person’s health.

Numerous research studies have found that greater fat distribution around the midsection — an “apple” or “android” body type — may be linked with a higher risk of chronic disease and poor health outcomes.

However, because many of these studies are observational, the results do not clearly indicate how big of a role body type truly plays in health.

Additionally, it’s problematic to use a person’s appearance to make generalizations about their health, since bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Such generalizations also promote weight bias, which can lead to delayed care and treatment.

Instead, it’s important for you and any healthcare professionals you work with to look at your health holistically by considering all aspects of health, including lifestyle, genetics, and age-related factors.

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