Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Genetic and environmental determinants of children's food preferences

  • Jane Wardle (a1) and Lucy Cooke (a1)
Abstract

Omnivores have the advantage of a variety of food options but face a challenge in identifying foods that are safe to eat. Not surprisingly, therefore, children show a relative aversion to new foods (neophobia) and a relative preference for familiar, bland, sweet foods. While this may in the past have promoted survival, in the modern food environment it could have an adverse effect on dietary quality. This review examines the evidence for genetic and environmental factors underlying individual differences in children's food preferences and neophobia. Twin studies indicate that neophobia is a strongly heritable characteristic, while specific food preferences show some genetic influence and are also influenced by the family environment. The advantage of the malleability of human food preferences is that dislike of a food can be reduced or even reversed by a combination of modelling and taste exposure. The need for effective guidance for parents who may be seeking to improve the range or nutritional value of foods accepted by their children is highlighted.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Genetic and environmental determinants of children's food preferences
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Genetic and environmental determinants of children's food preferences
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Genetic and environmental determinants of children's food preferences
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Jane Wardle, fax +44 (0)20 7813 2848, email j.wardle@ucl.ac.uk
References
Hide All
1Bellisle, F, Rolland-Cachera, MF & Kellogg Scientific Advisory Committee ‘Child and Nutrition’ (2000) Three consecutive (1993,1995,1997) surveys of food intake, nutritional attitudes and knowledge, and lifestyle in 1000 French children, aged 9–11 years. J Hum Nutr Diet 13, 101111.
2Cooke, L & Wardle, J (2005) Age and gender differences in children's food preferences. Br J Nutr 93, 741746.
3Diehl, JM (1999) Food preferences of 10- to 14-year-old boys and girls. Schweiz Med Wochenschr 129, 151161.
4Skinner, JD, Caruth, BR, Bounds, W & Zeigler, PJ (2002 b) Children's food preferences: a longitudinal analysis. J Am Diet Assoc 102, 16381647.
5Ton Nu, C, MacLeod, P & Barthelemy, J (1996) Effects of age and gender on adolescents' food habits and preferences. Food Qual Preferences 7, 251262.
6Wardle, J, Guthrie, CA, Sanderson, S, Birch, LL & Plomin, R (2001 a) Food and activity preferences in children of lean and obese parents. Int J Obes 25, 977.
7Perez-Rodrigo, C, Ribas, L, Serra-Majem, L & Aranceta, J (2003) Food preferences of Spanish children and young people: the enKid study. Eur J Clin Nutr 57, Suppl. 1, S45S48.
8Beauchamp, GK & Moran, M (1982) Dietary experience and sweet taste preference in human infants. Appetite 3, 139152.
9Desor, JA, Maller, O & Turner, RE (1973) Taste in acceptance of sugars by human infants. J Comp Physiol Psychol 3, 496501.
10Desor, JA, Maller, O & Turner, RE (1977) Preference for sweet in humans: infants, children, and adults. In Taste and Development: the Genesis of Sweet Preference, pp. 161172 [Weiffenbach, JM, editor]. US Government Printing Office: Washington, DC.
11Desor, JA, Maller, O & Andrews, K (1975) Ingestive responses of human newborns to salty, sour, and bitter stimuli. J Comp Physiol Psychol 89, 966970.
12Steiner, JE (1979) Facial expressions of the neonate infant indicating the hedonics of food related stimuli. In Taste and Development: the Genesis of Sweet Preference, pp. 173189 [Weiffenbach, JM, editor]. US Department of Health and Human Sciences: Washington, DC.
13Rozin, P & Schiller, D (1980) The nature and acquisition of a preference for chili pepper by humans. Motiv Emotion 4, 77101.
14Harris, G, Thomas, A & Booth, DA (1990) Development of salt taste preference in infancy. Dev Psychol 26, 534538.
15Beauchamp, GK, Bachmanov, A & Stein, LJ (1998) Development and genetics of glutamate taste preference. Ann N Y Acad Sci 855, 412416.
16Beauchamp, GK & Pearson, P (1991) Human development and umami taste. Physiol Behav 49, 10091012.
17Vazquez, M, Pearson, PB & Beauchamp, GK (1982) Flavor preferences in malnourished Mexican infants. Physiol Behav 28, 513519.
18Birch, LL, McPhee, L, Steinberg, L & Sullivan, S (1990 a) Conditioned flavor preferences in young children. Physiol Behav 47, 501505.
19Birch, LL (1992) Children's preferences for high-fat foods. Nutr Rev 50, 249255.
20Gibson, EL & Wardle, J (2003) Energy density predicts preferences for fruit and vegetables in 4 year-old children. Appetite 41, 9798.
21Booth, DA, Mather, P & Fuller, J (1982) Starch content of ordinary foods associatively conditions human appetite and satiation, indexed by intake and eating pleasantness of starch-paired flavours. Appetite 3, 163184.
22Birch, LL, McPhee, L, Steinberg, L & Sullivan, S (1990 b) Conditioned flavor preferences in young children. Physiol Behav 47, 501505.
23Johnson, SL, McPhee, L & Birch, LL (1991) Conditioned preferences: young children prefer flavors associated with high dietary fat. Physiol Behav 50, 12451251.
24McFarlane, T & Pliner, P (1997) Increasing willingness to taste novel foods: effects of nutrition and taste information. Appetite 28, 227238.
25Birch, LL (1979) Dimensions of preschool children's food preferences. J Nutr Educ 11, 7780.
26Pliner, P & Stallberg-White, C (2000) “Pass the ketchup, please”: familiar flavors increase children's willingness to taste novel foods. Appetite 34, 95103.
27Galef, BG Jr (1996) Food selection: problems in understanding how we choose foods to eat. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 20, 6773.
28Visalberghi, E & Addessi, E (2000) Seeing group members eating a familiar food enhances the acceptance of novel foods in capuchin monkeys. Anim Behav 60, 6976.
29Addessi, E, Galloway, AT, Visalberghi, E & Birch, LL (2005) Specific social influences on the acceptance of novel foods in 2–5-year-old children. Appetite 45, 264271.
30Birch, LL, Billman, J & Richards, SS (1984) Time of day influences food acceptability. Appetite 5, 109116.
31Wardle, J, Sanderson, S, Gibson, EL & Rapoport, L (2001 b) Factor-analytic structure of food preferences in four-year-old children in the UK. Appetite 37, 217223.
32Cooke, L, Wardle, J, Gibson, EL, Sapochnik, M, Sheiham, A & Lawson, M (2004) Demographic, familial and trait predictors of fruit and vegetable consumption by preschool children. Public Health Nutr 7, 295302.
33Cooke, L, Carnell, S & Wardle, J (2006) Food neophobia and mealtime food consumption in 4–5 year old children. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 6, 314.
34Galloway, AT, Lee, Y & Birch, LL (2003) Predictors and consequences of food neophobia and pickiness in young girls. J Am Diet Assoc 103, 692698.
35Jacobi, C, Agras, WS, Bryson, S, et al. (2003) Behavioural validation, precursors and concomitants of picky eating in childhood. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 42, 7684.
36Galloway, AT, Fiorito, L, Lee, Y & Birch, LL (2005) Parental pressure, dietary patterns, and weight status among girls who are “picky eaters”. J Am Diet Assoc 105, 541548.
37Carruth, BR, Skinner, J, Houck, J, Moran, J 3rd, Coletta, F & Ott, D (1998) The phenomenon of “picky eater”: a behavioral marker in eating patterns of toddlers. J Am Coll Nutr 17, 180186.
38Carruth, BR, Ziegler, PJ, Gordon, A & Barr, SI (2004) Prevalence of picky eaters among infants and toddlers and their caregivers' decisions about offering a new food. J Am Diet Assoc 104, Suppl. 1, S57S64.
39Birch, LL (1980 b) The relationship between children's food preferences and those of their parents. J Nutr Educ 12, 1418.
40Logue, AW, Logue, CM, Uzzo, RG, McCarty, MJ & Smith, ME (1988) Food preferences in families. Appetite 10, 169180.
41Pliner, P & Pelchat, M (1986) Similarities in food preferences between children and their siblings and parents. Appetite 7, 333342.
42Rozin, P & Millman, L (1987) Family environment, not heredity, accounts for family resemblances in food preferences and attitudes: a twin study. Appetite 8, 125134.
43Falciglia, GA & Norton, PA (1994) Evidence for a genetic influence on preference for some foods. J Am Diet Assoc 94, 154158.
44Krondl, M, Coleman, P, Wade, J & Milner, J (1983) A twin study examining the genetic influence on food selection. Hum Nutr Appl Nutr 37A, 189198.
45Breen, FM, Plomin, R & Wardle, J (2006) Heritability of food preferences in young children. Physiol Behav 88, 443447.
46Bartoshuk, LM & Beauchamp, GK (1994) Chemical senses. Annu Rev Psychol 45, 419449.
47Dinehart, ME, Hayes, JE, Bartoshuk, LM, Lanier, SL & Duffy, VB (2006) Bitter taste markers explain variability in vegetable sweetness, bitterness, and intake. Physiol Behav 87, 304313.
48Drewnowski, A, Henderson, SA, Shore, AB & Barratt-Fornell, A (1998) Sensory responses to 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) or sucrose solutions and food preferences in young women. Ann N Y Acad Sci 855, 797801.
49Drewnowski, A, Henderson, SA, Hann, CS, Berg, WA & Ruffin, MT (2000) Genetic taste markers and preferences for vegetables and fruit of female breast care patients. J Am Diet Assoc 100, 191197.
50Yackinous, CA & Guinard, JX (2002) Relation between PROP (6-n-propylthiouracil) taster status, taste anatomy and dietary intake measures for young men and women. Appetite 38, 201209.
51Drewnowski, A, Henderson, SA, Levine, A & Hann, C (1999) Taste and food preferences as predictors of dietary practices in young women. Public Health Nutr 2, 513519.
52Gayathri, DA, Henderson, SA & Drewnowski, A (1997) Sensory acceptance of Japanese green tea and soy products is linked to genetic sensitivity to 6-n-propylthiouracil. Nutr Cancer 29, 146151.
53Pasquet, P, Oberti, B, El, AJ & Hladik, CM (2002) Relationships between threshold-based PROP sensitivity and food preferences of Tunisians. Appetite 39, 167173.
54Duffy, VB & Bartoshuk, LM (2000) Food acceptance and genetic variation in taste. J Am Diet Assoc 100, 647655.
55Bell, KI & Tepper, BJ (2006) Short-term vegetable intake by young children classified by 6-n-propylthoiuracil bitter-taste phenotype. Am J Clin Nutr 84, 245251.
56Keller, KL, Steinmann, L, Nurse, RJ & Tepper, BJ (2002) Genetic taste sensitivity to 6-n-propylthiouracil influences food preference and reported intake in preschool children. Appetite 38, 312.
57Turnbull, B & Matisoo-Smith, E (2002) Taste sensitivity to 6-n-propylthiouracil predicts acceptance of bitter-tasting spinach in 3–6-y-old children. Am J Clin Nutr 76, 11011105.
58Keller, KL & Tepper, BJ (2004) Inherited taste sensitivity to 6-n-propylthiouracil in diet and body weight in children. Obes Res 12, 904912.
59Looy, H & Weingarten, HP (1992) Facial expressions and genetic sensitivity to 6-n-propylthiouracil predict hedonic response to sweet. Physiol Behav 52, 7582.
60Drewnowski, A (1997) Taste preferences and food intake. Annu Rev Nutr 17, 237253.
61Pliner, P & Loewen, ER (1997) Temperament and food neophobia in children and their mothers. Appetite 28, 239254.
62Pliner, P, Pelchat, M & Grabski, M (1993) Reduction of neophobia in humans by exposure to novel foods. Appetite 20, 111123.
63Falciglia, GA, Pabst, SM, Couch, SC & Goody, C (2004) Impact of parental food choices on child food neophobia. Children's Health Care 33, 217225.
64Koivisto Hursti, UK & Sjoden, PO (1997) Food and general neophobia and their relationship with self-reported food choice: familial resemblance in swedish families with children of ages 7–17 years. Appetite 29, 89103.
65Koivisto, UK & Sjoden, PO (1996) Food and general neophobia in swedish families: parent-child comparisons and relationships with serving specific foods. Appetite 26, 107118.
66Pliner, P (1994) Development of measures of food neophobia in children. Appetite 23, 147163.
67Cooke, LJ, Haworth, CA & Wardle, J (2007) Genetic and environmental influences on children's food neophobia. Am J Clin Nutr 86, 428433.
68Knaapila, A, Tuorila, H, Silventoinen, K, et al. (2007) Food neophobia shows heritable variation in humans. Physiol Behav, (Epublication ahead of print version).
69Mennella, JA, Jagnow, CP & Beauchamp, GK (2001) Prenatal and postnatal flavor learning by human infants. Pediatrics 107, E88.
70Cashdan, E (1994) A sensitive period for learning about food. Hum Nat 5, 279291.
71Skinner, JD, Carruth, BR, Bounds, W, Ziegler, PJ & Reidy, K (2002 a) Do food-related experiences in the first 2 years of life predict dietary variety in school-aged children? J Nutr Educ Behav 34, 310315.
72Birch, LL, McPhee, L, Shoba, BC, Pirok, E & Steinberg, L (1987) What kind of exposure reduces children's children's food neophobia? Looking vs tasting. Appetite 9, 171178.
73Birch, LL & Marlin, DW (1982) I don't like it; I never tried it: effects of exposure on two-year-old children's food preferences. Appetite 3, 353360.
74Pliner, P (1982) The effects of mere exposure on liking for edible substances. Appetite 3, 283290.
75Sullivan, SA & Birch, LL (1990) Pass the sugar, pass the salt: experience dictates preference. Dev Psychol 26, 546551.
76Sullivan, SA & Birch, LL (1994) Infant dietary experience and acceptance of solid foods. Paediatrics 93, 271277.
77Wardle, J, Herrera, ML, Cooke, L & Gibson, EL (2003 b) Modifying children's food preferences: the effects of exposure and reward on acceptance of an unfamiliar vegetable. Eur J Clin Nutr 57, 341348.
78Wardle, J, Cooke, L, Gibson, EL, Sapochnik, M, Sheiham, A & Lawson, M (2003 a) Increasing children's acceptance of vegetables: a randomised trial of guidance to parents. Appetite 40, 155162.
79Cooke, L (2007) The importance of exposure for healthy eating in childhood: a review. J Hum Nutr Diet 20, 294301.
80Birch, LL (1980 a) Effects of peer models' food choices and eating behaviors on preschoolers' food preferences. Child Dev 51, 489496.
81Duncker, K (1938) Experimental modification of children's food preferences through social suggestion. J Abnorm Soc Psychol 33, 489507.
82Harper, L & Sanders, KM (1975) The effect of adults' eating on young children's acceptance of unfamiliar foods. J Exp Child Psychol 20, 206214.
83Hobden, K & Pliner, P (1995) Effects of a model on food neophobia in humans. Appetite 25, 101114.
84Birch, LL, Marlin, DW & Rotter, J (1984) Eating as the ‘means’ activity in a contingency: effects on young children's food preference. Child Dev 55, 431439.
85Newman, J & Taylor, A (1992) Effect of a means-end contingency on young children's food preferences. J Exp Child Psychol 64, 200216.
86Birch, LL, Zimmerman, S & Hind, H (1980) The influence of social-affective context on the development of children's food preferences. Child Dev 52, 856861.
87Birch, LL, Birch, D, Marlin, DW & Kramer, L (1982) Effects of instrumental consumption on children's food preference. Appetite 3, 125134.
88Deci, EL, Koestner, R & Ryan, RM (1999) A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychol Bull 125, 627668.
89Cameron, J, Banko, KM & Pierce, WD (2001) Pervasive negative effects of rewards on intrinsic motivation: The myth continues. Behav Anal 24, 144.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed