To examine the contribution of genetic factors to food choice, we determined dietary patterns from food frequency questionnaires in 3262 UK female twins aged 18 to 79 years. Five distinct dietary patterns were identified (fruit and vegetable, high alcohol, traditional English, dieting, low meat) that accounted for 22% of the total variance. These patterns are similar to those found in other singleton Western populations, and were related to body mass index, smoking status, physical activity and deprivation scores. Older subjects had higher scores on the fruit and vegetable and traditional English patterns, while lower social deprivation was associated with higher scores for fruit and vegetable, and lower scores for traditional English patterns. All 5 patterns were heritable, with estimates ranging from 41% to 48%. Among individual dietary components, a strongly heritable component was identified for garlic (46%), coffee (41%), fruit and vegetable sources (49%), and red meat (39%). Our results indicate that genetic factors have an important influence in determining food choice and dietary habits in Western populations. The relatively high heritability of specific dietary components implicates taste perception as a possible target for future genetic studies.