Food liking-disliking patterns may strongly influence food choices and health. Here we assess: (1) whether food preference patterns are genetic/environmentally driven; and (2) the relationship between metabolomics profiles and food preference patterns in a large population of twins. 2,107 individuals from TwinsUK completed an online food and lifestyle preference questionnaire. Principle components analysis was undertaken to identify patterns of food liking-disliking. Heritability estimates for each liking pattern were obtained by structural equation modeling. The correlation between blood metabolomics profiles (280 metabolites) and each food liking pattern was assessed in a subset of 1,491 individuals and replicated in an independent subset of monozygotic twin pairs discordant for the liking pattern (65 to 88 pairs). Results from both analyses were meta-analyzed. Four major food-liking patterns were identified (Fruit and Vegetable, Distinctive Tastes, Sweet and High Carbohydrate, and Meat) accounting for 26% of the total variance. All patterns were moderately heritable (Fruit and Vegetable, h(2)[95% CI]: 0.36 [0.28; 0.44]; Distinctive Tastes: 0.58 [0.52; 0.64]; Sweet and High Carbohydrate: 0.52 [0.45, 0.59] and Meat: 0.44 [0.35; 0.51]), indicating genetic factors influence food liking-disliking. Overall, we identified 14 significant metabolite associations (Bonferroni p < 4.5 × 10(-5)) with Distinctive Tastes (8 metabolites), Sweet and High Carbohydrate (3 metabolites), and Meat (3 metabolites). Food preferences follow patterns based on similar taste and nutrient characteristics and these groupings are strongly determined by genetics. Food preferences that are strongly genetically determined (h(2) ≥ 0.40), such as for meat and distinctive-tasting foods, may influence intakes more substantially, as demonstrated by the metabolomic associations identified here.
Keywords: food preference; heritability; metabolomics; twins.