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Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May;91(5):1172-9. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28868. Epub 2010 Mar 24.

Nature and nurture in infant appetite: analysis of the Gemini twin birth cohort.

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



A strong genetic influence on appetitive traits has been shown in children and adults, but no studies have examined appetite in early infancy, even though avidity of appetite has been linked with a higher risk of obesity.


The objective was to investigate the heritability in early infancy of 4 appetitive traits that have been shown to be heritable later in childhood.


Data are from the Gemini Study, a population-based sample of twins (n = 2402 pairs) born in England and Wales in 2007. To describe their children's eating behavior during the first 3 mo of life while they were still exclusively milk fed, the parents of the twins completed 4 subscales of the Baby Eating Behavior Questionnaire: "enjoyment of food," "food responsiveness," "slowness in eating," and "satiety responsiveness." Heritability was estimated by using quantitative genetic model fitting.


Heritability was high for slowness in eating (84%; 95% CI: 83%, 86%) and satiety responsiveness (72%; 95% CI: 65%, 80%) and moderate for food responsiveness (59%; 95% CI: 52%, 65%) and enjoyment of food (53%; 95% CI: 43%, 63%).


Genetically determined variability in appetitive traits may be one of the pathways through which genes influence the growth rate in infancy. Early identification of infants with avid appetites may make it possible to implement strategies to attenuate the expression of these traits before excessive weight gain occurs.

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