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Title:Nature and nurture on picky eating behavior in early childhood
Author(s):Cole, Natasha Chong
Director of Research:Donovan, Sharon M.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Fiese, Barbara H.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Lee, Soo-Yeun; Teran-Garcia, Margarita; Bost, Kelly K.
Department / Program:Nutritional Sciences
Discipline:Nutritional Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Picky Eating
Abstract:Eating behavior in children is influenced by both genetic and environmental determinants. In the first two years of life, children develop food preferences and dietary habits as they transition from a milk-based diet to table foods. During this time, picky eating behavior often emerges as children become more independent during mealtime. Picky eating, or fussy eating, is typically characterized as having a low dietary variety and unwillingness to eat either familiar or novel foods to the extent of causing problematic interference during mealtimes. Previous literature on picky eating has largely focused on school-aged children. In addition, no study had investigated the joint influence of nature and nurture on children’s picky eating behavior using a transdisciplinary gene-environment approach. Research is needed to gain a better understanding of the early-life contributors of picky eating behavior and factors that promote healthy dietary patterns, growth, and development in early childhood. The purpose of this dissertation was to determine the influence of genetics (nature) and the feeding environment (nurture) on picky eating behavior in children aged 24 months from the STRONG Kids 2 longitudinal birth cohort study. Towards this goal, there were three specific aims: 1) identify the association between individual genetic variations related to appetite and picky eating behavior; 2) identify the association between the reported and observed parental feeding responsiveness with picky eating behavior; and 3) determine the interaction between cumulative genetic risk and parental feeding responsiveness in the prediction of children’s picky eating behavior. DNA was isolated from saliva samples collected at 6 weeks of age. Mothers completed surveys when the child was 18 and 24 months of age regarding their feeding practices and their child’s eating behaviors. Families were observed during a typical family dinner in the naturalistic home setting and videos were coded for parents’ observed feeding practices. Two studies were conducted to investigate the role of nature on picky eating. We identified the association between picky eating and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes related to chemosensory perception and appetite control. Individual genetic variation in genes related to bitter taste was associated with picky eating, suggesting that children who are sensitive to bitter taste are more likely to be picky eaters. We also identified an association between picky eating and individual genetic variation in genes related appetite regulation, suggesting that picky eaters may have reduced appetite based on genetic differences. To identify the role nurture on picky eating, we conducted two studies to examine the influence of the feeding environment on picky eating behavior. There was a prospective relation between picky eating and factors related to the home feeding environment. Among preschool-aged children, avoiding the television, maintaining parent control of food choices during mealtimes, and having a higher sense of positive climate during family meals was associated with lower picky eating behavior one year later. Among toddlers, reported parent nonresponsive feeding practices was positively associated with picky eating behavior, suggesting that responsive feeding practices may promote healthful eating behavior in young children. To investigate the joint influence of nature and nurture on picky eating, we utilized a gene-environment interaction approach based on the differential susceptibility hypothesis. A cumulative genetic risk score was calculated based on genes previously identified in the first study. We found that children with the highest cumulative genetic risk were pickier when they were exposed to an environment with high parental feeding responsiveness, but less picky in an environment with low feeding responsiveness. Overall, these results indicate that both nature and nurture influence the development of picky eating in children and findings can be used to inform the development of anticipatory guidance for parents and caregivers of young children.
Issue Date:2018-03-26
Rights Information:© 2018 Natasha Chong Cole
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-04
Date Deposited:2018-05

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