It's the question that has haunted history's casanovas and gastronomes, and fueled the earlobe-piercing giggles of countless girls' nights out. The agonising choice between the mortal world's two greatest ecstasies and the deciding factor in whether to have the double chocolate cheesecake or "head back to mine for coffee."
Guys, if you really, really had to choose, what would it be: sex or food?
Well, you may need never ask again because according to new research, depending on your gender, your mind is already made up.
Studying the brain cells of nematode worms, researchers from University College London and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, US concluded that neurons in male brains may be programmed to prioritise sex over the desire to eat food.
Li'l primer on the nematode worm for those who skipped the multicellular organisms bio class: it has two sexes: male and hermaphrodite, which reproduces using its own sperm (handy.) Since hermaphrodites have no reason to want sex, male nematodes have to work extra hard to seduce their self-sufficient counterparts and ensure the population remains gender diverse.
Published in the Nature journal this week, the research analyses differences between the two sexes of nematodes, finding that males have an extra set of brain cells devoted to seeking sex, even at the expense of food. These extra cells—dubbed the "mystery cells of the male" (MCM)—only show up when male nematodes are sexually mature.
Speaking to The Washington Post, lead study author Arantza Barrios of University College London said their reasoning behind this was "that they must have something to do with male sexual behaviors."
Barrios and fellow researchers tested this theory through "associated learning," or the ability to remember that one thing is related to another.
Using salt as a stimulus, the worms learned to associate the substance with unpleasantness. Even in a new environment, worms previously starved in the presence of salt would move away high concentrations of it, as they linked it with lack of food.
What's interesting is that worms starved in the presence of mates as well as salt sought the higher concentrations of salt in a new environment. Researchers concluded that this preference of more salt meant that the association between salt and having sex was stronger than the association of salt and food.
Basically, the mysterious MCM causes male worms to prioritise sex over other opportunities—including food.
Before we all start rolling our eyes about guys and their one-track minds, it's worth noting that these brain cells exist only in male nematode worms. However researchers did say that the findings "give us a perspective" to understand variations in sex when it comes to humans.
According to Barrios: "We've shown how genetic and developmental differences between the two sexes lead to structural changes in the brain of male worms during sexual maturation. These changes make male brains work differently, allowing males to remember previous sexual encounters and prioritise sex in future situations."
Replay that beautiful anniversary night in your head all you want, we're still not sure it'll come close to the first blissful bite of mozzarella-smothered, chorizo-laden, grease-smeared pizza after a week of #cleaneating.