Turns Out Picky Eaters Have A Genetic Defect, Says Science

Do you have a long list of foods you hate?

Picky Eaters Have A Genetic Defect (THANKS, Mom And Dad!) Getty 

I have friends with children that are picky eaters. The lack of food variety their children will eat is often frustrating for the parents. Generally, it's thought that a child will grow out of their picky eating phase, but there are a number of Picky Eating Adults (PEA) who suffer from Selective Eating Disorder (SED).

Picky eaters don't make food choices based on calorie content; quite the opposite, for they tend to favor blander foods that are white or pale-colored like plain pasta or cheese pizza. For reasons unknown, almost all adult (and children) picky eaters like French fries and chicken fingers


Researchers don't know what's behind a picky eater's limited diet, but textures and smell definitely come into play. Some will only eat foods with one kind of mouth-feel or one sort of taste, leading experts to speculate that picky eaters have obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

There are some scientific reasons that may help explain a picky eater's actions.

"Like many behaviors, it appears to be the result of a complex interaction between your genes and the environment," says Marcia Pelchat, Ph.D., a researcher at Monell Chemical Sense Center in Philadelphia who focuses on food preferences.

First of all, there are variations of a gene that's associated with taste called TAS2R38, which determines how strongly you taste bitter flavors like coffee or endive. If you think something like kale will taste bitter, you're not going to let it cross your lips.


Once a picky eater has made up their mind about a food, it's difficult to convince them otherwise. Theories on why people suffer from ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, which is extreme picker eater-ness) range from Asperger's to an overpopulation of taste buds.

There are different reasons for each sufferer. But no matter what, they feel sick to their stomach, panicked, or scared at the idea of having Indian food or anything not on their short list of acceptable foods.

A susceptibility to SED may be passed down through the generations.

"There's a theory that it serves a purpose because being skeptical of foods could prevent you from eating something that's poisonous," Pelchat said in an article in The Huffington Post


And that's especially important for young children, which is why we see signs of pickiness starting in children between the ages of two and three years old.

"Until recently, that was the age of weaning in human cultures, so you want children to be worried and to only eat things that are safe until they learn what's going on," she added. 

Being a picky eater may not bother you that much. Perhaps you've learned to live with it and situations where people may not understand your selective eating habits, such as dinner parties or going out for a meal with a client.

The problem is that most picky eaters have a tendency to eat foods that are high in fat and sugar (as those are the most familiar, simple and easy to consume foods), and we all know that's not good for anybody.


Also, if you only have a small number of foods that you'll eat, the chances that you're not getting the minerals and vitamins you need to fight sickness and disease are high.