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Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Aug;86(2):428-33.

Genetic and environmental influences on children's food neophobia.

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  • 1Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Unit, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom.



Food neophobia in children has been associated with a low intake of fruit, vegetables, and protein foods. The design of effective interventions to improve children's diets would be facilitated by a better understanding of the determinants of neophobia.


Our objective was to quantify the contribution of genetic and environmental differences to variation in child food neophobia.


Parents of twins aged 8-11 y (n = 5390 pairs) completed questionnaires about their children's eating habits, including a measure of food neophobia.


The results showed that neophobia is highly heritable. The heritability estimate from model fitting was 0.78 (95% CI: 0.76, 0.79). A further 22% of the variance was explained by nonshared environmental factors, with no influence of shared environmental factors.


Neophobia appears to be a heritable trait, but almost a quarter of the phenotypic variation is accounted for by nonshared environmental factors. An important aim for future research is the identification of influential aspects of the environment specific to individual children.

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