Nicholas Falconer

Research reveals that fussy eating is genetic

BEING a fussy eater could be in your genes, new research suggests.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina assessed 66 pairs of twins between the ages of four and seven.

They found genes affected 72 per cent of the kids and their affinity to avoid new kinds of food while the remaining children were affected by their environment.

"In some respects, food neophobia, or the aversion to trying new foods, is similar to child temperament or personality," said Myles Faith, lead author and associate professor of nutrition at the Gillings School of Public Health.

"Some children are more genetically susceptible than others to avoid new foods. However, that doesn't mean that they can't change their behaviors and become a little less picky."

A previous study observing food fears found 78 per cent of eight to 11-year-olds and 69 per cent of adults inherited their reluctance to try new foods.

A surprising outcome in the study was that parents who were heavier, had children who were heavier only if they were picky eaters, Medical Daily reported.

The New Zealand Healthy Food Guide has tips for turning around picky kids. They suggest introducing one new food at a time and trying hard not to cave in.

"Each child may respond differently to each approach, and research needs to examine new interventions that take into account children's individuality," said Faith.

"But what we do know through this and other emerging science is that this individuality includes genetic uniqueness."

The researchers are now looking ahead to explore how neophobia and the personality could impact routine eating and an individual's body weight, potentially giving more insight on obesity.

The paper was published in the journal Obesity.

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