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Children's Resistance to Eating New Foods Is Inherited

Correlation found with identical twins, but environment also a factor

THURSDAY, Aug. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Children can inherit a resistance to eating new foods, but individual reactions to environmental factors also play a role, according to the results of a twin study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Lucy J. Cooke, of University College London in the United Kingdom, and colleagues studied questionnaires completed by parents of 5,390 pairs of twins (aged 8 to 11 years) who were participants in the Twins Early Development Study. Of these, 1,913 were identical and 3,477 were fraternal.

Correlations between a fear of new foods (food neophobia) and monozygotic twins greatly exceeded correlations with dizygotic twins, suggesting a high degree of heritability. Variation in neophobia scores because of heritable genetic difference was estimated at 78 percent. An additional 22 percent of variance was attributed to non-shared environmental factors. Shared environmental factors showed no influence.

"Parents can be reassured that their child's reluctance to try new foods is not simply the result of poor parental feeding practices, but it is partly in the genes," the authors conclude. "However, notwithstanding high heritability, research in laboratory and real-world settings has shown that neophobia for specific foods can be reduced through exposure-based interventions."

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