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Objective

The heritability of food neophobia, the tendency to avoid new foods, was tested in 4-7-year-old twins. We also examined whether food neophobia is associated with parent-child feeding relations or child body fat.

Design and Methods

66 same-sex twin pairs, including 37 monozygotic (MZ) and 29 dizygotic (DZ) pairs were studied. Food neophobia was assessed by parent questionnaire (Child Food Neophobia Scale, CFNS), as were child-feeding practices and “division of responsibility” feeding relations. Child anthropometry and percent body fat were directly measured.

Results

MZ and DZ twin pair correlations for food neophobia were r = 0.71 and r = −0.01, respectively: heritability= 72%. Greater food neophobia was associated with reduced child eating compliance of prompted foods (P < 0.001) reduced eating compliance of initially refused foods (P < 0.001), and – among girls only – fewer parental food demands (P = 0.01). Interestingly, the correlation between maternal BMI and child BMI z-score was significant only for children high (P = 0.03), but not low (P = 0.55), in food neophobia.

Conclusion

Child food neophobia, a highly heritable trait previously linked to emotionality, was associated with less compliant parent–child feeding relations. Strategies to combat food neophobia and foster more harmonious feeding relationships may have a role in obesity prevention.