October 23/Press Association Newsfile -- The food a person chooses to eat is largely determined by genetic factors, according to a new study.

People who eat garlic, drink coffee or munch their way through lots of fruit and vegetables are likely to have inherited their tastes from their parents, according to researchers from King's College London.

In the past, it was believed social and environmental factors played an important role in determining what we eat.

However, the academics believe their research, published in the journal Twin Research and Human Genetics, shows we may have less choice over what we like to eat than previously thought.

The fact that people often enjoy a diet similar to that of their parents is likely to be determined by their genes, rather than the household and environment where they were raised.

Researchers studied the dietary habits of 3,262 female twins and were able to compare the eating habits of identical and non-identical sisters and determine the extent to which genes play a part.

Five distinct dietary patterns were identified during the study with most people falling into one: fruit and vegetable, high alcohol, traditional English, dieting and low meat.

Lead researcher professor Tim Spector said, "This research has revealed some fascinating findings.

"For so long, we have assumed that our up-bringing and social environment determine what we like to eat. This has blown that theory out of the water, more often than not, our genetic makeup influences our dietary patterns."

The academics said their study was also vital in terms of health as it has long been recognised that certain illnesses and diseases are linked to diet.

Heart disease is strongly associated with a diet high in saturated fats. By establishing why we eat what we eat, they say their study goes some way toward determining the causes of some illnesses.

Another key issue is that campaigns aimed at promoting healthy eating may need to be re-thought in light of these new findings.

If diet is less about choice, and more about genetics, such campaigns may have less of an effect than is intended, researchers said.

From the November 5, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash