Are Food Preferences Genetic? Nature vs. Nurture

August 15, 2017

Have you ever wondered why some people order pancakes at breakfast whilst others will choose the savory scrambled egg option? Or why some children seem to have a vendetta against vegetables from the moment they come out of the womb? Or why cilantro is a go-to garnish for some, whilst others are a part of an official community of cilantro haters at Yep, there's even a website...and merchandise.



How is it that one person’s food preferences can differ so much to someone else’s? Were we born to taste foods in a particular way?

We have investigated this phenomenon and it turns out genetics are a factor, but are not the complete story. What foods we are exposed to also plays a very important part.

A recent report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition acknowledges that when predicting children’s food preferences, environment has more of an influence in the case of high-energy snacks, dairy and starches than their genetics. Another UK-based study observed a cohort of twins born in 2007, looking at their preferences for 114 different foods. Vegetables came in last, behind dairy, protein and starch. Junk-food snacks were a clear winner (not a huge shock there). Genetics were found to be a minor influence on preference to starch, snacks and dairy whereas vegetables and protein preferences were strongly influenced by genetics. The home environment was also found to be a major influence on preferences for snacks, starches and dairy and have a less significant influence on fruits, veggies and protein.



One of the researchers, Fildes points out that in the past, due to scarcity of food, humans developed preferences of energy-dense foods to survive. The concern here is that in the present day where these snack foods are readily available for us all the time, over-indulgence has become normalized. Research has also shown that the more we are exposed to certain foods, the greater our preference for these foods become. Therefore the food environment that a child experiences should not be overlooked as this could reinforce unhealthy preferences.



So yes, if a child throws a tantrum every time you attempt to feed them vegetables, these preferences are likely innate. However, monitoring what they are exposed to remains an important task, especially in the case of energy-dense snacks. The study concluded that children can learn to enjoy foods by tasting them repeatedly (up to 10-14 times). This could come as good news to the parents being faced with vegetable-triggered tantrums. Hang in there! 

Another study from Cornell University showed that what a mom eats during pregnancy may also influence the food preferences of their child. Regardless of this predisposition, inborn taste preferences are not permanent and can also be overcome by gradually incorporating the preferred food groups.



To take another example, let’s take a look at the relationship between our genes and attitude towards that havock-wreaking herb.. cilantro. 

A California-based genetics study asked 25,000 people about their cilantro preferences. The study revealed that it is the oder-detecting genes that decide whether a person likes or dislikes cilantro because it enhances the herb’s soapy scent. However, by slowly exposing our tastebuds to small amounts of cilantro, the taste can eventually become less overpowering.

Taking this information into account, despite the fact that our food preferences are influenced by our genetics, our environment and what foods we are exposed to can override our DNA. 

With that being said, if you are not willing to try cilantro or brussel sprouts 10 to 14 times in order to start rewiring your taste buds, one of our delivery plans may be a great fit for you!

100% of the meals on our plans can be customized to replace or remove any ingredients that will upset your tastebuds. Take a look at the extensive variety of meals that we offer here.




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