Don't blame me, my food spot's too big

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Indy Lifestyle Online
There has been a lot of interest in the brain this week. The other night I watched a man in a suit on Channel 4 dissect a pink plastic brain, removing pieces like orange segments and smaller bits that resembled plastic anchovies. He was explaining new findings which show that male homosexuality may be biologically based, that scientists have discovered that the anterior commissure, a bundle of nerves not previously thought to be related to sex, probably is - and that it's a lot bigger in gay men.

This follows a 1991 report by Dr Simon LeVay that yet another nerve bundle, the interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus - or sex spot (which makes guys go for women) - is smaller in gay men.

Controversy has followed both studies: some say the scientific samples were too small or incomplete, others worry that if homosexuality is brain- based, homophobes might want to 'fix' gay brains. The up side, though, said the editor of a London gay newspaper, is 'the prospect of someone trying to create a new generation of gay geniuses such as Michelangelo or Benjamin Britten.'

If biology is destiny, homosexuality could not be considered a matter of choice; gay rights would automatically be protected. It would be harder for born-again crackpots to condemn homosexuality as 'immoral'.

We Sixties types have always preferred nurture because it implies free will and the family of man, that kind of stuff. It's a relief, though, to discover that nature is in fashion because it lets you right off the hook. You are what you are. Whatever is, is right.

What with men on television doing plastic brain demos, startling biogenetic claims about this and that (and they are made in the name of everything from sex to basketball) remind me of 19th-century scientists weighing up differences in size between European brains and African brains, say.

In light of the current interest in the brain, I have decided to release some news that has come my way, based on a confidential scientific study made at a couple of French universities. It concerns the relationship between food and the brain.

New scientific evidence makes it clear that there is a basic difference between the brains of people who like to eat a lot for pleasure and other people. The relevant 'brain bundle' is known as the 'anterior connoisseur', sometimes referred to as the 'food spot' (no bigger than the grease stain on this paper from the kedgeree you're having for breakfast).

The anterior connoisseur has been found to be generally larger in foodies than in ordinary human beings. This has raised considerable controversy among the gastronomically challenged - those who would be inclined to eat almost everything but often resist, or even alter their behaviour, because of the implicit disapproval of the culinary right.

If the findings are proved correct, however, it could take a lot of pressure off those whose nature it is to spend their days stuffing their faces with

foie gras and bacon sandwiches instead of lettuce, whatever its nationality, or sampling bio-organic olive oil.

If the impulse to gourmandise turns out to be biologically based, these findings could also release many miserable neo-vegetarians from their battle against their own natures. They could give up carrot juice and stewed tofu and restore health and happiness by the more natural means of a great big juicy charcoal-broiled steak.

Frightened by the spectre of the vego-fascists, many people have not had a decent meal in years. Similarly, many gastronomes become seriously depressed when they cannot eat anything they want, especially Haagen- Dazs ice cream.

Look, some of my best friends are gastros; some never come out. Many spend their entire holidays in foreign places eating as much as they can; some, out of fear of discovery, never return home; some do not return because they are dead.

The major problem with the French study, however, is that it was based on a very small sample. Only 21 brains were involved. These were autopsied after removal from a coach party of British gastronomes who died during a tour of France following a cook-off on Masterchef; what's more, it appears that the only things the owners of these brains had in common were that they ate too many gooseburgers between meals and were all called Loyd or Floyd.

Still, many will applaud the findings of a difference in the size of the anterior connoisseur between fat people who enjoy their food and thin people who don't care what they eat. If a biological basis can be determined for overeating for pleasure, it will be one more stitch in the shroud of the critics who argue that eating a lot for pleasure is a choice and, therefore,

immoral.

On the other hand, there are those who think that insisting on biological determinants will lead to people try-

ing to 'fix' the brains of the big

eater.

One of the leaders of Eat Big, an organisation that aims to protect the rights of the gastronomically challenged, says: 'People have a passion for trying to cure us. Perverted people will want to open our brains and fix them. It has all happened before: look at Weight Watchers, diet pills, Overeaters Anonymous, psychotherapy,

jogging . . .'

There is always the prospect of someone trying to create a new generation of food geniuses, such as Brillat- Savarin, or Loyd Grossman.

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