The influence of parental food preference and neophobia on children with phenylketonuria (PKU).

Research paper by Sharon S Evans, Anne A Daly, Satnam S Chahal, Catherine C Ashmore, John J MacDonald, Anita A MacDonald

Indexed on: 11 Nov '17Published on: 11 Nov '17Published in: Molecular Genetics and Metabolism Reports


In a previous case-control study, we demonstrated that children with PKU and non-PKU controls preferred sweet foods. Additionally, children with PKU exhibited food neophobia, with no preference for bitter tasting foods associated with the taste of phenylalanine (Phe)-free L-amino acid supplements.In an observational extension study, we evaluated the influence of parental food choice and neophobia on their children's taste preferences and food neophobia.Male and female parents/caregivers of 35 children with PKU and 35 control parents, completed a neophobia and food frequency questionnaire for comparison using the same questionnaires that they completed for their children.Both groups of children (PKU and non PKU control) were rated as more food neophobic and exhibited more neophobic behaviour than parents, although children with PKU more so than non-PKU controls (PKU food neophobia p < 0.0001vs control 0.001; PKU general neophobia p = 0.003 vs control p = 0.04). Both groups of children ate significantly more sweets, sweetened drinks and potato fries than their parents but differences were greater for children with PKU who also consumed more high carbohydrate (low protein) staple foods such as bread and pasta, and more sweet snacks such as biscuits than their parents. Non-PKU control children's food choices were closer to their parent's choices.In PKU, parental food choices and their food neophobia have limited influence on their children's eating habits. Food neophobia in children with PKU may be associated with fear of eating unfamiliar foods potentially containing a source of protein or aspartame. Their preference for sweet foods may be influenced by limited food choices and habitual consumption of artificially sweetened L-amino acid supplements.