Some children can be notoriously picky eaters, but one study suggests that a chronic avoidance of vegetables in particular may not be obstinance, but rather a genetic predisposition towards intense dislike of the bitter compounds found in many vegetables.
Scientists divided a group of sixty-five children into tasters and non-tasters using 6-n-propylthiouracil or (PROP). Non-tasters do not taste the compound while tasters find it horribly bitter. Once the children were divided into tasters and non-tasters, they were offered five common vegetables to consume at will, black olives, cucumbers, carrots, red pepper, and raw broccoli. The children were then asked to rate the vegetables they ate. The children identified as non-tasters ate more vegetables than the tasters and rated the bitter vegetables higher than did their tasting counterparts. While only 8% of the non-tasting children consumed no vegetables, 38% of the tasters abstained. In addition, Broccoli, a vegetable which children are notorious for pushing to the side of the plate, was rated higher by non-tasting children.
The evidence suggests that a picky eater may have been born with a tongue that is more sensitive to olives, broccoli or cucumbers than either parent and what may be perceived as dinner-time neophobia is merely a response to unpleasant oral stimuli.