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Adult picky eaters: something to chew on

July 15, 2009 | 11:39 am

While cruising Food Network the other day we caught an episode of the show "My Life in Food" about adult picky eaters. And while we were familiar with the phenomenon in children, we erroneously thought people outgrew picky eating as they got older, or at least were eventually able to introduce more foods into their diet.

Jm64pdnc That's not always the case. The show profiled three adults whose diets consist of scant few items, such as bread and peanut butter, or grilled cheese and French fries. Fruits, vegetables and meat are often nonexistent in their diets. Picky eaters find most foods inedible in terms of texture, taste or temperature --tomatoes have a high slime factor, for example, and meat is too gristly and chewy. Just looking at a bowl of chili can bring on a gag reflex. Theories abound on why this is, with some linking it to obsessive-compulsive disorders, or to being a supertaster (having a heightened sense of taste) or non-taster (having a dulled sense of taste). Most adult picky eaters had similar issues with food as children, and many were traumatized by parents who force-fed them.

While picky eating may just seem odd to the rest of us omnivores, having food issues comes with a host of problems. Relationships suffer (one guy hadn't dated for years), and social occasions are fraught with anxiety, as most revolve around food. Health is often a concern, since nutritional needs aren't being met.

Some profiled on the show were seeking help via hypnotherapy or dietitians, determined to introduce a wider variety of foods into their diets. All seemed relieved to find the website Picky Eating, which offers personal stories, a Web forum and resources. Next week Nova features a show on the science of picky eaters that explores genetic components. A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a strong genetic link to having an aversion to some foods, but that still didn't account for every case of picky eating.

Are you an adult picky eater, or do you live with one? How has this affected your life? Are you actively seeking help, or are you OK with the status quo? Let us know.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times