Neophobia, a reluctance to try new foods, is common in young children. A UK study has now discovered that the trait of neophobia is mainly genetic rather than influenced by a child’s environment.
Neophobic children are known to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and follow restrictive diets. However, if neophobia continues into later childhood. it can have an adverse impact on diet and health
5390 pairs of twins (both identical and non-identical) aged 8-11 years were recruited to the study. Parents completed questionnaires about their children’s eating habits and home/school environment, including an estimate of their reluctance to try new foods. The results showed that heritability explained nearly 80% of the variation in neophobia suggesting a strong influence of genetics. Non-shared environment made up the rest. The authors expressed a hope that a greater understanding of how neophobia occurs will help identify suitable interventions for addressing it.
For more information, see
Cooke LJ et al (2007). Genetic and environmental influences on children’s food neophobia. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 86, pp 428-433.
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