The reason some kids fear new foods has less to do with what’s on their plate and more to do with their genes, a new study has found. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that genes play a significant role in children’s eating behaviour, including the tendency to avoid new foods. “In some respects, food neophobia, or the aversion to trying new foods, is similar to child temperament or personality,” said lead researcher Myles Faith.
“Some children are more genetically susceptible than others to avoid new foods. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t change their behaviours and become a little less picky,” she said in the study published in the journal Obesity. The study looked at 66 pairs of twins between ages 4 and 7 years old, and found that genes explain 72% of the variation among children in the tendency to avoid new foods, while the rest was influenced by environment.
Previous research has shown a similar genetic influence for food neophobia in 8-to-11-year-olds (78%) and adults (69%), suggesting that the impact of genes on food neophobia is constant across the developmental spectrum. Faith and his team also examined the relationship between food neophobia and body fat measures in both parent and child. Unexpectedly, the researchers found that if the parent was heavier, the child was heavier only if he or she avoided trying new foods.
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