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.