Most if not all children are picky eaters. In fact, pediatricians say that pickiness is a normal rite of passage. For some, however, this is attributed to poor parenting. But a new study published in the Journal of Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics, researchers found a link between picky eating and gene mutations.

If you are blaming your child or yourself for showing some level of pickiness with food, I think it’s time for you to stop doing it. The reason? A team of American researchers found that gene mutations TAS2R38 and CA6 could cause fussy eating in children, the Daily Mail noted.


Even though picky eating habits is a normal phase of growing up or development, experts said that the behavior could be worrisome to some kids. Through the study, researchers hope that it could pave the way for potential resolutions to the growing childhood obesity epidemic worldwide.

The recent research is not the first study that suggested a connection between fussy eating habits and genetics. However, it is the first time that experts were able to identify “two picky eating mutations,” after choosing five taste-related genes.

These genetic variations are known as TAS2R38 and CA6. The TAS2R38 is responsible for the limited dietary variety (especially when it comes to new food) while the CA6 is linked to mealtime messes or “out-of-control” tendencies.

Researchers explained that these DNA variations could be connected to the bitter-taste concept among toddlers with the age of two to four-year-olds. They are also responsible for controlling the “chemosensory organs found in the receptor systems.”

According to nutritional scientist Natasha Cole from Illinois University’s obesity prevention program, it’s not surprising to notice that there are kids who are “genetically bitter-sensitive” and will refuse to eat broccoli or Brussel sprouts.

But with their findings, Cole is optimistic that they’ll be able to determine the root causes of picky eating in early childhood.

Dangers of fussy eating habits

Even though pickiness in food is a normal part of growing up, it could also have some negative impacts on the overall health of children. In fact, picky eating can lead to illnesses or eating disorders later in life.

Additionally, some kids can be over or underweight due to picky tendencies.

This behavior could also lead to mental health issues such as depression and social anxiety, as well as ADHD (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder), Time reported. Although Duke University Center for Eating Disorders director Nancy Zucker stressed that she doesn’t want to consider picky eating a “medical condition,” she pointed out that parents should seek more guidance from pediatricians when handling selective eaters. Zucker also suggested trying getting “meal times” back.

Other factors

Meanwhile, the researchers also stressed that there are also other chemosensory factors that may affect eating habits or behaviors.

These include color, odor, and texture. But further studies are needed to determine the link between the kids’ preferences and the appearance or odor of foods.

More research is also needed to identify the effects of parenting styles to the Eating Behavior of kids, and if such attitude is shown at home, in childcare or both. Food scientist Professor Soo-Yeun Lee revealed that Cole is looking into the behavioral genes and sensory taste genes that may contribute to the fussy eating habits among children.

Lee added that their study is based on “nature vs. nurture” classification where nature refers to genetics and nurture means the environment and caregivers, Food & Wine reported. But Lee stressed that this eating behavior is not only influenced by environmental factors. In fact, the susceptibility of children to these environmental cues should also be considered.