Author(s): Breen FM, Plomin R, Wardle J
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Abstract BACKGROUND: There is persisting interest in the idea that taste preferences are heritable characteristics, but few twin studies have found evidence for a significant genetic component. Small sample sizes and idiosyncratic selection of foods may have contributed to the negative results. We hypothesized that using a larger twin sample and empirical groupings of food types, would give stronger evidence for the heritability of food preferences. OBJECTIVE: We examined the heritability of preferences for four food groups in a sample of young twins. DESIGN: We administered a food preference questionnaire with 95 foods to 214 mothers of same-sex twin pairs (103 monozygotic and 111 dizygotic pairs) aged 4 to 5. 18 foods were excluded because they had been tried by fewer than 25\% of the children. Foods were grouped into 'Vegetables', 'Fruits', 'Desserts' and 'Meat and Fish' on the basis of a factor analysis of the preference data. Genetic analyses were carried out on mean liking across these four groups, using model fitting techniques. RESULTS: Over all 77 foods, MZ correlations were higher than DZ correlations for 72 of them, with a higher mean MZ correlation (r = 0.76) than DZ correlation (r = 0.56). Using model fitting techniques with the factor scores, significant heritability estimates were obtained for all four food groups. Heritability was modest for dessert foods (0.20), moderate for vegetables (0.37) and fruits (0.51), and high for liking for protein foods (0.78). Shared environmental effects were strong for desserts, fruits and vegetables, while non-shared environmental influences were low for all four food groups. CONCLUSIONS: These results provide strong evidence for modest heritability of food preferences when using empirically-derived groupings of foods.
This article was published in Physiol Behav
and referenced in Journal of Pregnancy and Child Health