Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This does not bode well

Little Man's digestive system went wonky as a result of antibios. I was reading around the internet and came across this NYT article about picky eaters.

Little Man isn't picky. And prior to the antibiotics, he had a little gut of steel. But I WAS a picky eater. So the article freaked me out. To wit:

But for parents who worry that their children will never eat anything but chocolate milk, Gummi vitamins and the occasional grape, a new study offers some relief. Researchers examined the eating habits of 5,390 pairs of twins between 8 and 11 years old and found children’s aversions to trying new foods are mostly inherited.

The message to parents: It’s not your cooking, it’s your genes.

The study, led by Dr. Lucy Cooke of the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in August. Dr. Cooke and others in the field believe it is the first to use a standard scale to investigate the contribution of genetics and environment to childhood neophobia.

According to the report, 78 percent is genetic and the other 22 percent environmental.

“People have really dismissed this as an idea because they have been looking at the social associations between parents and their children,” Dr. Cooke said. “I came from a position of not wanting to blame parents.”

Nutritionists, pediatricians and academic researchers have recently shifted focus to children who eat too much instead of those who eat too little. But cases of obesity are less frequent than bouts of pickiness.

Hugh Garvey, an editor at Bon App├ętit magazine, knows the heartbreak firsthand. He shares his experience on gastrokid.com, a blog he created with a British pal that details the gastronomic life of families. His daughter, 6, is an omnivore’s dream child. But his son, 3, will eat only brown food.

Most children eat a wide variety of foods until they are around 2, when they suddenly stop. The phase can last until the child is 4 or 5. It’s an evolutionary response, researchers believe. Toddlers’ taste buds shut down at about the time they start walking, giving them more control over what they eat. “If we just went running out of the cave as little cave babies and stuck anything in our mouths, that would have been potentially very dangerous,” Dr. Cooke said.

A natural skepticism of new foods is a healthy part of a child’s development, said Ellyn Satter, a child nutrition expert whose books, including “Child of Mine: Feeding With Love and Good Sense” (Bull Publishing, 2000), have developed a cult following among parents of picky eaters.

Each child has a unique set of likes and dislikes that Ms. Satter believes are genetically determined. The only way children discover what they are is by putting food in their mouths and taking it out over and over again, she said.

People who study children prone to flinging themselves on the floor at the mere mention of broccoli agree that calm, repeated exposure to new foods every day for between five days to two weeks is an effective way to overcome a child’s fears.

Oh damn. I'm screwed. I still really like to eat the same foods over and over. In fact, when I go to a restaurant and don't order the same thing, I feel a huge sense of overwhelming loss. Like I missed an opportunity to eat something I love, like I wasted a meal.

I'd love for Little Man to love broccoli (ugh). Hell, I hope Boo gets around to eating anything (getting tube fed babies to learn to tolerate taste is a struggle).

Please let my family avoid the food wars.

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