Have pity on those poor parents desperately trying to coax a protesting toddler to eat something she has pushed away in disgust. While moms and dads may fault themselves for an inability to evoke the magic words that will open-sesame their offspring's mouth, it turns out there's a good chance some of that child's — er, shall we say “discretion” — is innate.
Once again, it's in the genes.
A new study concludes that around half of toddlers' fussiness probably is genetically determined. Researchers at University College London looked at 1,932 Welsh and English twin pairs and their families. When the children were 16 months old, the parents were given the 35-item Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire as a gauge of how fussy each child was about food.
To figure out how much of this behavior was genetic, the researchers looked at 626 identical twin pairs to see how often both children scored similarly on the questionnaire. Since identical twins essentially have the same DNA, both children will exhibit a purely genetic trait — every time.
This is not what the researchers found. While the identical twins often shared the same level of food fussiness, it did not occur 100 percent of the time.
So genetics appears not to be the whole story: It could be the twins' shared environment accounts for their similar but not identical eating habits.