Diet Can Affect Gender of Offspring

June 5, 2008
Boy or girl? Sugar or low-cal? Study shows link between conception and food consumption

There is nothing like a sugar-laden breakfast to boost a woman's chances of conceiving a son, according to researchers at the University of Exeter in Britain. Likewise, a low-energy diet low in calories, minerals and nutrients is more likely to produce a girl.

The team came to that conclusion after asking 740 first-time moms-to-be who did not know if their unborn fetuses were male or female to provide detailed records of their eating habits before and after they became pregnant. Fifty-six percent of the women in the group with the highest energy intake had sons, compared to 45 percent in the less-well-fed cohort. Beside higher calories, the group that produced more males consumed a wider range of nutrients, including potassium, calcium and vitamins C, E and B12.

The odds of an XY, or male, outcome to a pregnancy also went up "for women who consumed at least one bowl of breakfast cereal daily compared with those who ate less than or equal to one bowl of week." These surprising findings are consistent with a very gradual shift in favor of girls over the last four decades in the sex ratio of newborns, according to the researchers. While the mechanism is not yet understood, it is known from in vitro fertilization research that higher levels of glucose encourage the growth and development of male embryos while inhibiting female embryos.

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