Yikes! Do We All Have Gourmand Syndrome?


Like to eat great food and maybe even obsessed with it? Consider yourself a foodie? You may be suffering from a lesion in the right anterior lobe of the brain, in a condition known as Gourmand Syndrome.

The condition — resulting from damage to the right front portion of the gray matter — was first described by two Swiss researchers from University Hospital in Zurich, M. Regard and T. Landis, writing in the journal Neurology (May 1997). The researchers studied 36 patients showing “a preoccupation with food and preference for fine eating” — which sounds like most Fork in the Road readers. But in 34 cases, this syndrome, which is further described as an “impulse control disorder,” is shown to be related to brain damage.

Here’s the abstract, submitted to Fork in the Road by Aleksandar Kracun:

We present a new benign eating disorder associated with lesions involving parts of the right anterior cerebral hemisphere. This “gourmand” syndrome describes a preoccupation with food and a preference for fine eating. Two exemplary case reports illustrate this new syndrome. Analysis of the clinical and anatomical data of 36 patients who displayed this behavior revealed, in 34, a strong association with lesion location in the right anterior part of the brain involving cortical areas, basal ganglia, or limbic structures. Our finding provides further evidence of a correlation between right hemispheric damage, eating, and other impulse control disorders. We conjecture that the serotonergic system subserves different functions in the left and right hemisphere.

Then in 2011, after a body of literature on the syndrome had gradually developed over the previous decade, the Smithsonian website published a piece that gave the condition a more human face. They cited the case of a political reporter who, after a blow to the head, switched to food writing (Victoria Bekiempis, are you listening?), and, at greater length, a snowboarder who, after a brain injury, developed a passion for basil pesto.

But don’t worry, there must be hundreds of other reasons for being interested in food. Right?

Maybe we need to establish a charity to fight GS.