Children inherit their taste for meat and fish but when it comes to vegetables and desserts it’s more nurture than nature, according to a study on Wednesday.
Scientists who compared the food preferences of identical and fraternal twins found that some tastes are inherited while others are acquired.
“This is the first study to include significant numbers of protein foods and the first to show a high heritability for these,” said Professor Jane Wardle of the charity Cancer Research UK.
Mothers of 103 pairs of four and five-year-old identical twins and 111 pairs of non-identical twins were given lists of 77 foods in different categories and told to rate how much their children liked them.
Identical twins share all the same genes while fraternal twins share only half, so comparing their food preferences highlights which tastes are inherited and which are influenced by environmental factors.
The scientists determined the heritability by looking at how similar the identical and fraternal twins’ liking for foods were.
“For example, if you took height you would discover that identical twins tend to be very close in height and non-identical twins are not quite so close. That is what tells us that height is heritable,” said Wardle whose findings are published online in the Journal of Physiology and Behaviour.
Although the researchers said it is not clear which factors influence a taste for fruits, vegetables or desserts, they suggested availability or the influence of parents could play a part.
“It might be that children who witness their parents show enthusiasm or distaste for certain types of vegetables or puddings are likely to follow suit,” Wardle said.