A taste for flesh, in the flesh

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

An interesting study, conducted by Cancer Research UK, suggests that children “inherit” (at least in part) a taste for meat and fish from their parents. In contrast, a preference for fruit and veggies wasn’t linked to nature, but to nurture: the more a child’s parents encouraged herbivorous eating, the more kids expressed enthusiasm for nature’s candies.

From the BBC:

Children largely inherit their taste for high-protein food like meat and fish, research suggests.

However, Cancer Research UK found a liking for vegetables and puddings was less likely to be fixed, and more the result of the menu provided by parents. […]

Lead researcher Professor Jane Wardle, of Cancer Research UK’s health behaviour unit, said it was not clear why environmental factors were more influential in determining preferences for fruit, vegetables and puddings.

She said it might be down to the greater variety of choice available in these categories – unlike in meat or fish.

“It might be that children who witness their parents show enthusiasm or distaste for certain types of vegetables or puddings are likely to follow suit.

“Or it might be that if a particular food is always available children learn to like it.

“For instance if a fruit bowl is always full of bananas children might think of them as being a favourite food.”

Professor Wardle said the findings suggested that parents could have a profound impact on their children’s dietary preferences – and steering them towards healthy options could set a blueprint for life.

“Finding out more about why children like and dislike foods is important in helping us understand the problems of obesity.”

Additionally, the researchers examined gender differences in food preferences:

The Journal of Physiology and Behaviour study also found girls were more likely to enjoy vegetables than boys.

Might this have a little sumthin-sumthin to do with the stereotype that “real men” eat meat, while the womenfolk are expected to suffice on tiny sparrow’s portions of lettuce and broccoli?

(Crossposted at Hell Food.)