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      Common genetic architecture underlying young children’s food fussiness and liking for vegetables and fruit 1 2 3

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          Background: Food fussiness (FF) is common in early childhood and is often associated with the rejection of nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables and fruit. FF and liking for vegetables and fruit are likely all heritable phenotypes; the genetic influence underlying FF may explain the observed genetic influence on liking for vegetables and fruit. Twin analyses make it possible to get a broad-based estimate of the extent of the shared genetic influence that underlies these traits.

          Objective: We quantified the extent of the shared genetic influence that underlies FF and liking for vegetables and fruit in early childhood with the use of a twin design.

          Design: Data were from the Gemini cohort, which is a population-based sample of twins born in England and Wales in 2007. Parents of 3-y-old twins ( n = 1330 pairs) completed questionnaire measures of their children’s food preferences (liking for vegetables and fruit) and the FF scale from the Children’s Eating Behavior Questionnaire. Multivariate quantitative genetic modeling was used to estimate common genetic influences that underlie FF and liking for vegetables and fruit.

          Results: Genetic correlations were significant and moderate to large in size between FF and liking for both vegetables (−0.65) and fruit (−0.43), which indicated that a substantial proportion of the genes that influence FF also influence liking. Common genes that underlie FF and liking for vegetables and fruit largely explained the observed phenotypic correlations between them (68–70%).

          Conclusions: FF and liking for fruit and vegetables in young children share a large proportion of common genetic factors. The genetic influence on FF may determine why fussy children typically reject fruit and vegetables.

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          Most cited references 37

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          Genetic studies of body mass index yield new insights for obesity biology.

          Obesity is heritable and predisposes to many diseases. To understand the genetic basis of obesity better, here we conduct a genome-wide association study and Metabochip meta-analysis of body mass index (BMI), a measure commonly used to define obesity and assess adiposity, in up to 339,224 individuals. This analysis identifies 97 BMI-associated loci (P  20% of BMI variation. Pathway analyses provide strong support for a role of the central nervous system in obesity susceptibility and implicate new genes and pathways, including those related to synaptic function, glutamate signalling, insulin secretion/action, energy metabolism, lipid biology and adipogenesis.
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            Development of a measure of the motives underlying the selection of food: the food choice questionnaire.

            A number of factors are thought to influence people's dietary choices, including health, cost, convenience and taste, but there are no measures that address health-related and non-health-related factors in a systematic fashion. This paper describes the development of a multidimensional measure of motives related to food choice. The Food Choice Questionnaire (FCQ) was developed through factor analysis of responses from a sample of 358 adults ranging in age from 18 to 87 years. Nine factors emerged, and were labelled health, mood, convenience, sensory appeal, natural content, price, weight control, familiarity and ethical concern. The questionnaire structure was verified using confirmatory factor analysis in a second sample (n = 358), and test-retest reliability over a 2- to 3-week period was satisfactory. Convergent validity was investigated by testing associations between FCQ scales and measures of dietary restraint, eating style, the value of health, health locus of control and personality factors. Differences in motives for food choice associated with sex, age and income were found. The potential uses of this measure in health psychology and other areas are discussed.
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              Food neophobia and 'picky/fussy' eating in children: a review.

              Two factors have been shown to contribute to rejection or acceptance of fruits and vegetables: food neophobia and 'picky/fussy' eating. Food neophobia is generally regarded as the reluctance to eat, or the avoidance of, new foods. In contrast, 'picky/fussy' eaters are usually defined as children who consume an inadequate variety of foods through rejection of a substantial amount of foods that are familiar (as well as unfamiliar) to them. Through understanding the variables which influence the development or expression of these factors (including age, personality, gender, social influences and willingness to try foods) we can further understand the similarities and differences between the two. Due to the inter-relationship between 'picky/fussy' eating and food neophobia, some factors, such as pressure to eat, personality factors, parental practices or feeding styles and social influences, will have similar effects on both magnitude and duration of expression of these behaviours. On the other hand, these constructs may be differentially affected by factors such as age, tactile defensiveness, environment and culture. The effects of these variables are discussed within this review. Behavioural interventions, focusing on early life exposure, could be developed to attenuate food neophobia and 'picky/fussy' eating in children, so promoting the ready acceptance and independent choice of fruits and vegetables.

                Author and article information

                Am J Clin Nutr
                Am. J. Clin. Nutr
                The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
                American Society for Nutrition
                April 2016
                10 February 2016
                10 February 2016
                : 103
                : 4
                : 1099-1104
                [4 ]Health Behavior Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom; and
                [5 ]Department for Health Evidence and
                [6 ]Department of Primary and Community Care, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, Netherlands
                Author notes
                [* ]To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: a.fildes@ .

                Supported by Cancer Research UK [grant C1418/A7974; for the Gemini study (to JW)]. This is an open access article distributed under the CC-BY license (


                The funding body had no role in the data collection, analysis, or decision to publish the results.


                Supplemental Figure 1 is available from the “Online Supporting Material” link in the online posting of the article and from the same link in the online table of contents at


                This is an open access article distributed under the CC-BY license (

                Page count
                Pages: 6
                Nutritional Epidemiology and Public Health

                Nutrition & Dietetics

                child, eating, food, fussiness, genetic, heritability, preferences, infant, liking


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