Food v. Sex

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • “Forget dinner, I want you now!” You might have experienced this feeling in your own relationship. It’s time for dinner but you, or your partner, might want to skip the dinner and head straight to the bedroom. According to recent research, it is probably the man who wants to go without food if it comes down to a choice between eating and sex. And, there might be a biological reason for his choice.

    A study published in the journal Current Biology reveals that a male’s brain might actually suppress their need for food if there is a possibility of sex. Scientists used C. elegans, which are roundworms often used to biological concepts, including the development and function of the nervous system. Many of the discoveries using these worms apply to animals and humans. The worm species has two sexes: male and hermaphrodites, which is considered a modified female. The hermaphrodites self-fertilize but also mate with the males.

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    Researchers knew from previous studies that when exposed to food, the male and hermaphrodites responded differently. The hermaphrodites stayed near the food source and the males wandered off, possibly because they are in search of a mate. Scientists noted that certain smell receptors, called ODR-10, played a part in the response to food. The hermaphrodites produced a greater number of the smell receptors, making them attracted to the food source. The males produced less of these receptors, suppressing their ability and desire to locate food.

    In the experiment, hermaphrodites were placed in the center of a petri dish, with a nearby food source. They did not wander away from that area. The males were placed around the outer edges of the dish, with their own nearby food source. Some of the males were genetically engineered to produce more smell receptors. The normal, or non-genetically engineered males wandered away from the food source and sought out hermaphrodites to mate with. The genetically modified males had more trouble finding a mate. Scientists assumed this was because they were more interested in finding food. This was confirmed by studying the offspring, which showed that the normal males produced ten times more offspring than the genetically modified males. In a second experiment, the scientists suppressed the smell receptors in the hermaphrodites. They then wandered away from their food source in order to find a mate.

    Because behaviors and information gleaned from C. elegans has, in the past, transferred to animal and human behavior, the scientists believe that at least some of our human sexual drives can be explained by biology. The male C. elegans suppressed the receptors and lowered their interest in food in order to mate. It is possible that that, as humans, males do the same thing and that could partially explain, “forget dinner, let’s have sex instead.”

    Certainly, cultural and societal factors play a role in our behavior, in both men and women. But we also know that some behaviors can be driven by biology as well. Whether our behavior is driven by nature or nuture has long been debated.

Published On: November 05, 2014