Your Genes Dictate You What to Eat

The genetics of taste

You may think that what you eat is your own choice. But a new research made at Kings College London proves that this choice depends on your genes. This was found after comparing the eating habits of thousands of pairs of twins. Identical twins presented a significantly higher share of food preference patterns, like a weakness for coffee and garlic, pointing towards the importance of a common taste genetics.

Identical twins have in common 100 % of the genes (non-identical twins share genes just like any ordinary siblings), and by comparing them to non-identical twins, the researchers could determine the likelihood that their traits are caused by genetics or social and cultural diet.

The research incorporated over 3,000 female twins aged 18 to 79, assigned to five different dietary "groups": diets rich in fruit and vegetables, alcohol, fried meat and potatoes, and low-fat foods or low in meat, fish and poultry. Data pointed that 41- 48% of a person's preference towards one of the food groups was biased by genetics.

The most powerful connection between personal taste and genes was that of the taste for garlic and coffee. "For so long we have assumed that our upbringing and social environment determine what we like to eat. This has blown that theory out of the water - more often than not, our genetic make-up influences our dietary patterns.", said lead researcher Professor Tim Spector.

The team pointed that healthy eating campaigns, such as the "five-a-day" fruit and vegetable initiative, can't change the habits of people genetically "programmed" to ingesting less fruit and vegetables.

"The findings, and other similar research, points to genetics playing a "moderate" part in the development of preferred foods. It is possible that genes involved with taste, or the "reward" chemicals released by the body in response to certain foods, might play a role. People have always made the assumption that food choices are all due to environmental factors during life, but it now seems this isn't the case. It also suggests that what parents do to influence eating habits in childhood are not necessarily as important as we thought - and that a lot of effort may need to be made with young people as they become independent in adolescence to steer them onto the right course.", said Professor Jane Wardle, from University College.

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