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Some Children are Picky Eaters due to Genetic Variation

Mar 21, 2013 06:45 AM EDT

According to a new study, genes are behind kids' aversion to new kinds of foods. 

Food neophobia is a condition where a person avoids or is reluctant to taste unfamiliar foods. The condition in children is associated with low intake of fruits, vegetables and protein foods. The present study, conducted by researchers from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found that the condition is largely due to genetic variation.

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

The study was based on data obtained from 66 pairs of twins who were between 4 and 7 years old. Researchers found that more than 70 percent of the variation in picky and non-picky eaters could be explained by genetics, while the rest was due to the environmental conditions.

The study even looked at how parents' and child's weight affected food neophobia. Researchers found that if the parents were heavy, the child had higher body mass only if they had an aversion to new foods.

Researchers say that parents can help the child eat a variety of foods by serving a wide variety of foods from which the kid can choose a new item. Parents can even be role-models for the kids by trying out new foods themselves.

"Each child may respond differently to each approach, and research needs to examine new interventions that take into account children's individuality. But what we do know through this and other emerging science is that this individuality includes genetic uniqueness," said Faith in a news release.

The study is published in the journal Obesity.      

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