In response to kids not liking their vegetables, Dr Jane Wardle says “Children could actually blame their mothers for this.” That’s because according to a study published this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (co-authored by Wardle), neophobia – the fear of new foods and a condition I guess I suffer from – is mostly in the genes.
Identical twins, who share all genes, were much more likely to respond the same way to new foods than non-identical twins, who like other siblings only share about half their genes. Researchers concluded that genetics played a greater role in determining eating preferences than environment – since each pair of twins lived in the same household.
Wardle said food preferences appear to be “as inheritable a physical characteristic as height.”
Unlike nearly every other phobia, neophobia is a normal stage of human development.
Scientists theorize that it was originally an evolutionary mechanism designed to protect children from accidentally eating dangerous things – like poisonous berries or mushrooms.
The study also sheds light on why I have never had any idea what “bitter” is supposed to taste like.
Other taste-related traits – like the ability to taste bitterness – are also inherited. Scientists have already identified the gene responsible, and have found that approximately 30 percent of Caucasians lack the gene and cannot taste bitterness.