Nature, not nurture, decides whether we like garlic

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Genetics

A new study has presented strong evidence that food preferences are
largely governed by hereditary rather than social and environmental
factors, especially when it comes to a taste for garlic, coffee and
fruit and veg.

"For so long we have presumed that our up-bringing and social environment determine what we like to eat,"​ said Professor Tim Spector of King's College, London, lead researcher on the cohort study published in Twin Research and Human Genetics​ this month. "This has blown that out of the water. More often than not our genetic make-up influences our dietary patterns."​ The researchers looked into the eating habits of 3262 female twins in the UK aged between 18 and 79 years. They asked the women to complete food frequency questionnaires, so as to determine their dietary patterns. The result was the identification of five distinct dietary patterns: fruit and vegetable, high alcohol, traditional English, dieting, and low meat. These patterns were seen to be similar to those in singleton Western populations, and were related to factors like body mass index, smoking status, physical activity and deprivation. The researchers found that all five of the patters were heritable, with estimates ranging from 41 to 48 per cent. The strongest hereditary components were seen for fruit and vegetables (49 per cent), garlic (46 per cent), coffee (41 per cent) and red meat (39 per cent). In light of these findings, the researchers concluded: "The relatively high heritability of specific dietary components implicates taste perception as a possible target for future genetic studies."​ Subject to these, the findings could have a bearing on determining cause of illness, especially in cases where there is a strong link between diet and disease (such as high intake of saturated fat and heart disease). It is also thought that this direction of research could prove useful when it comes to future government strategies on dietary advice, the influence of hereditary tastes could well have a bearing on success rates. For instance, if a diet is less about choice an more about genetics, campaigns like the UK's 'five a day' for fruit and vegetables could have less of an effect than expected. Source Journal: Twin Research and Human Genetics, Oct;10(5):734-48. Title: "Dietary Patterns and Heritability of Food Choice in a UK Female Twin Cohort" ​Authors:​ Teucher B, Skinner J​, Skidmore PM​, Cassidy A​, Fairweather-Tait SJ​, Hooper L​, Roe MA​, Foxall R​, Oyston SL​, Cherkas LF​, Perks UC​, Spector TD​, Macgregor AJ​.

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