Gender and genes affect food choices

Scientists used to say "you are what you eat". Then they said, "you are what your mother ate". Now, they have concluded that "you eat what you are"; genes play a key role in shaping our dietary preferences.

Scientists from the University of Copenhagen Hospital, Denmark, studied 600 sets of twins to try to disentangle the influence of heredity from environment. They found controlling influences on food preference were different in men and women. If one female twin liked either juice or eggs, her sister was more likely to share her preference if she was identical, but the same correlation did not hold true for male twins. And a liking for fruit, vegetables, potatoes, fish, poultry and sweets was more likely to be shared by twins raised together.

The researchers say almost half of dietary preferences are inherited, while a childhood environment shared by siblings also influenced fondness for certain foods. But the results also show that eating habits can be influenced by factors that are neither inherited nor originate in the childhood home. The findings are published in the Journal of the American Society of Nutrition.