Lashing Out at Your Spouse? Check Your Blood Sugar

Lower levels of blood sugar may make married people angrier at their spouses and even more likely to lash out aggressively, new research reveals.

In a 21-day study, researchers found that levels of blood glucose in married people, measured each night, predicted how angry they would be with their spouse that evening.

At the end of the 21 days, people who had generally lower levels of glucose were willing to blast their spouses with unpleasant noises at a higher volume and for a longer time than those who had higher glucose levels.

The study shows how one simple, often overlooked factor – hunger caused by low levels of blood glucose – may play a role in marital arguments, confrontations and possibly even some domestic violence, said Brad Bushman, lead author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.

Hungry = Angry

Blood glucose levels can be brought up most quickly by eating carbohydrates or sugary foods.

“People can relate to this idea that when they get hungry, they get cranky,” Bushman said.

It even has a slang term: “hangry” (hungry + angry).

“We found that being hangry can affect our behavior in a bad way, even in our most intimate relationships,” he said.

The study, which took three years to complete, appears online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

The research involved 107 married couples. The study started with the couples completing a relationship satisfaction measure, which asked each spouse how much they agreed with statements like “I feel satisfied with our relationship.”

Voodoo Dolls

The researchers measured anger in a unique way, developed and validated by C. Nathan DeWall of the University of Kentucky in previous studies.

All participants were given a voodoo doll that they were told represented their spouse, along with 51 pins. At the end of each day, for 21 consecutive days, the participants inserted 0 to 51 pins in the doll, depending on how angry they were with their spouse. They did this alone, without their spouses being present, and recorded the number of pins they stuck in the doll.

Each person also used a blood glucose meter to measure glucose levels before breakfast and every evening before bed for the 21 days.

The result: The lower the participants’ evening blood glucose levels, the more pins they stuck in the doll representing their spouse. This association was present even after the researchers took into account the couples’ relationship satisfaction.

“When they had lower blood glucose, they felt angrier and took it out on the dolls representing their spouse,” Bushman said.

“Even those who reported they had good relationships with their spouses were more likely to express anger if their blood glucose levels were lower.”

Blasting Their Spouse

But it wasn’t just the dolls who took the brunt of the anger. After the 21 days, the couples came into the laboratory to take part in an experimental task.

They were told they would compete with their spouse to see who could press a button faster when a target square turned red on the computer – and the winner on each trial could blast his or her spouse with loud noise through headphones.

In reality, though, they weren’t playing against their spouse – 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 noise blast.

“Within the ethical limits of the lab, we gave these participants a weapon that they could use to blast their spouse with unpleasant noise,” Bushman said.

Fuel for the Brain

Results showed that people with lower average levels of evening glucose sent louder and longer noise to their spouse – even after controlling for relationship satisfaction and differences between men and women.

Further analysis showed that those who stuck more pins in the voodoo doll representing their spouse were more likely to deliver louder and longer noise blasts, as well.

“We found a clear link between aggressive impulses as seen with the dolls and actual aggressive behavior,” he said.

Why does low blood sugar make people more prone to anger and aggression?

Bushman said that glucose is fuel for the brain. The self-control needed to deal with anger and aggressive impulses takes energy, and that energy is provided in part by glucose.

“Even though the brain is only 2% of our body weight, it consumes about 20% of our calories. It is a very demanding organ when it comes to energy,” he said.

“It’s simple advice but it works: Before you have a difficult conversation with your spouse, make sure you’re not hungry.”


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Raising a Moral Child

The New York Times has an interesting on how to raise a moral child.  It turns out (no surprise) that the example set by a child’s parents speaks louder than what the parents says, and that words make a big difference.  You can read the story here.

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What’s Your False God?

“Thou shalt have no other God besides me.”  That’s one of the most famous of the Ten Commandments.

Yet most of us do.  Maybe it’s money.  Maybe it’s watching sports all weekend.  Maybe it’s alcohol.  Maybe it’s pornography.  Maybe it’s a job at which we spend 60-80 hours a week.

For Creigh Deeds, a Virginia state senator whose son Gus attacked him with a knife and then took his own life, it was politics.  A Washington Post article published April 12, 2010, revealed that Deeds and his wife Pam had divorced as of Feb. 4, (as the Washington Post described) “a casualty of a nearly 20-year pursuit of a lifelong ambition that kept him away from home.”

That’s a real danger for politicians.

Even those married folks who devote their time to church can allow that worthy endeavor to become a false God, if we place church activities and church service above service to our family.

For those with a vocation to marriage, it’s important to always remember that the family must come first, that it is in serving our family that we serve God.

Sure, that leaves time for singing in the choir or teaching CCD, or being in the Knights of Columbus.  But not if it means you’re away from your family most of the time.

What about coaching Little League, or being an adult leader in a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop?  That’s fine if your son or daughter is a member of the group.  That’s a way to spend time with your family while also serving others.

Lent is an excellent time for all of us to reflect upon our priorities and to make sure that one of our earthly interests haven’t become our false God.

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How to Pray Constantly, Like a Catholic: Try the Liturgy of the Hours

A number of Christians I know envy Muslims because of their five-prayers-a-day discipline.

Well, here’s a news flash:  We Catholics invented it.  Or maybe we adapted it from Jewish practice.  But in any event, before Muhammad was born, Catholics were saying the Liturgy of the Hours.

Once viewed as the exclusive preserve of clergy and religious, more and more laypersons are praying the Divine Office.  A leader in promoting this has been Daria Sockey, who has written a terrific book, The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours. 

It’s an easy and useful read.  We recommend it highly.  Here’s Daria talking about it on EWTN’s Bookmark:


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How Running, Other Cardio Helps Young Adults Preserve Thinking Skills in Middle Age

A new study affirms the importance of cardio workouts for young adults.  But we’re all so pressed for time that many who want to be spiritually healthy as well as physically healthy find it really tough to exercise and do such things as pray the Rosary.

One solution to that problem was shown in 2005, when Chris Matthews did a special report that showed a mom on a treadmill shortly after 5 a.m.  Not only was she getting a cardio workout, Matthews noted, but a spiritual workout as well:  In her right hand was a ring rosary, which she used as she prayed the Rosary while pounding out the miles.

The study showed that young adults who run or participate in other cardio fitness activities may preserve their memory and thinking skills in middle age.  Middle age was defined as ages 43 to 55.

Peggy Bowes, an Air Force Academy grad, took the idea of combining exercise and the Rosary and created “The Rosary Workout.”

“Many studies show the benefits to the brain of good heart health,” said study author David R. Jacobs, Jr, PhD, with the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “This is one more important study that should remind young adults of the brain health benefits of cardio fitness activities such as running, swimming, biking or cardio fitness classes.”

Cardiorespiratory fitness is a measure of how well your body transports oxygen to your muscles, and how well your muscles are able to absorb the oxygen during exercise.

For the study, 2,747 healthy people with an average age of 25 underwent treadmill tests the first year of the study and then again 20 years later. Cognitive tests taken 25 years after the start of the study measured verbal memory, psychomotor speed (the relationship between thinking skills and physical movement) and executive function.

For the treadmill test, which was similar to a cardiovascular stress test, participants walked or ran as the speed and incline increased until they could not continue or had symptoms such as shortness of breath.

At the first test, participants lasted an average of 10 minutes on the treadmill. Twenty years later, that number decreased by an average of 2.9 minutes.

For every additional minute people completed on the treadmill at the first test, they recalled 0.12 more words correctly on the memory test of 15 words and correctly replaced 0.92 more numbers with meaningless symbols in the test of psychomotor speed 25 years later, even after adjusting for other factors such as smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol.

People who had smaller decreases in their time completed on the treadmill test 20 years later were more likely to perform better on the executive function test than those who had bigger decreases. Specifically, they were better able to correctly state ink color (for example, for the word “yellow” written in green ink, the correct answer was “green”).

“These changes were significant, and while they may be modest, they were larger than the effect from one year of aging,” Jacobs said. “Other studies in older individuals have shown that these tests are among the strongest predictors of developing dementia in the future. One study showed that every additional word remembered on the memory test was associated with an 18-percent decrease in the risk of developing dementia after 10 years.”

“These findings are likely to help us earlier identify and consequently prevent or treat those at high risk of developing dementia,” Jacobs said.

The study was published in the April 2, 2014, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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Gratitude, Not ‘Gimme,’ Makes for More Satisfaction, Study Finds

People who are materialistic are more likely to be depressed and unsatisfied, in part because they find it harder to be grateful for what they have, according to a study by Baylor University psychology and business researchers.

The study — “Why are materialists less happy? The role of gratitude and need satisfaction in the relationship between materialism and life satisfaction” — appears in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

“Gratitude is a positive mood. It’s about other people,” said study lead author Jo-Ann Tsang, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Previous research that we and others have done finds that people are motivated to help people that help them — and to help others as well. We’re social creatures, and so focusing on others in a positive way is good for our health.”

But materialism tends to be “me-centered.” A material outlook focuses on what one does not have, impairing the ability to be grateful for what one already has, researchers said.

“Our ability to adapt to new situations may help explain why ‘more stuff’ doesn’t make us any happier,” said study co-author James Roberts, Ph.D., holder of The Ben H. Williams Professorship in Marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

“As we amass more and more possessions, we don’t get any happier – we simply raise our reference point,” he said. “That new 2,500-square-foot house becomes the baseline for your desires for an even bigger house. It’s called the Treadmill of Consumption. We continue to purchase more and more stuff but we don’t get any closer to happiness, we simply speed up the treadmill.”

Study results were based on an analysis of 246 members of the department of marketing in a mid-sized private university in the southwestern United States, with an average age of 21. They took part in a 15-minute survey using a 15-item scale of materialism.

Previous research suggests that materialists, despite the fact they are more likely to achieve material goals, are less satisfied overall with their lives. They are more likely to be unhappy and have lower self-esteem. They also are more likely to be less satisfied with relationships and less involved in community events.

Meanwhile, those who are grateful are likely to find more meaning in life, previous research shows.

The study notes that ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus advised, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

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1st Adult Stem Cell Study of Bipolar Disorder Yields Promising Results

What makes a person bipolar, prone to manic highs and deep, depressed lows? Why does bipolar disorder run so strongly in families, even though no single gene is to blame? And why is it so hard to find new treatments for a condition that affects 200 million people worldwide?

New adult stem cell research published by scientists from the University of Michigan Medical School, and fueled by the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund, may help scientists find answers to these questions.

The team used skin from people with bipolar disorder to derive the first-ever stem cell lines specific to the condition. In a new paper in Translational Psychiatry, they report how they transformed the stem cells into neurons, similar to those found in the brain – and compared them to cells derived from people without bipolar disorder.

The comparison revealed very specific differences in how these neurons behave and communicate with each other, and identified striking differences in how the neurons respond to lithium, the most common treatment for bipolar disorder.

It’s the first time scientists have directly measured differences in brain cell formation and function between people with bipolar disorder and those without.

The researchers are from the Medical School’s Department of Cell & Developmental Biology and Department of Psychiatry, and U-M’s Depression Center.

Stem cells as a window on bipolar disorder

The team used a type of stem cell called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs. By taking small samples of skin cells and exposing them to carefully controlled conditions, the team coaxed them to turn into stem cells that held the potential to become any type of cell. With further coaxing, the cells became neurons.

“This gives us a model that we can use to examine how cells behave as they develop into neurons. Already, we see that cells from people with bipolar disorder are different in how often they express certain genes, how they differentiate into neurons, how they communicate, and how they respond to lithium,” says Sue O’Shea, Ph.D., the experienced U-M stem cell specialist who co-led the work.

“We’re very excited about these findings. But we’re only just beginning to understand what we can do with these cells to help answer the many unanswered questions in bipolar disorder’s origins and treatment,” says Melvin McInnis, M.D., principal investigator of the Prechter Bipolar Research Fund and its programs.

“For instance, we can now envision being able to test new drug candidates in these cells, to screen possible medications proactively instead of having to discover them fortuitously.”


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On the Solemnity of the Annunciation, a High Court Argument on Religious Liberty

Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation.  What’s a Solemnity, it’s a high feast day.  And since this Solemnity is in Lent, it’s treated like a Sunday.  So if you gave up chocolate, or video games, or meat or committed to fasting throughout Lent — enjoy!

In a wonderful piece of ironic timing, the U.S. Supreme Court also chose today to hear arguments in two religious liberty cases involving ObamaCare’s contraceptive mandate.  Advocates for Hobby Lobby, Conestoga and the U.S. Government all had a rough time before the nine justices.  For more details on the legal arguments, read the excellent summary by Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog here.

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The Elliptical Rosary

One of the big challenges we all have is how to do all we need to do in the limited time available.

One solution is to exercise as you say the Rosary.  That’s what I did yesterday afternoon:  I put in 26 minutes on my elliptical machine praying the Rosary, using the Rosary Player app for Android phones.

There are a slew of Rosary apps available for both Androids and iPhones.  Find the one that works best for you, and if you can’t get to a quiet place, put on your phone and headphone, and mount your elliptical machine or treadmill and get two workouts at the same time — physical and spiritual

After praying the Rosary, I went to iHeartRadio for some exercise music for the remaining 14 minutes of my 40 minute workout.

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Pope Francis on St. Joseph as Model for Fathers, Educators

Today is the Feast of St. Joseph, a Solemnity (which means Lenten restrictions don’t apply, so if you gave up chocolate and want to eat some, please do).

Read what Pope Francis had to say about St. Joseph here.


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