The Baby Boy Diet
At last there is proof that a mother's diet prior to conception can have an effect on the sex determination of her offspring. Researchers at Exeter and Oxford have determined that eating high-energy foods just before conception predisposes a mom to conceive a boy baby. This finding may shed light on why the male birth rate has fallen over the last forty years in industrialized nations such as the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
The British study included 740 women participants undergoing their first pregnancies. The women were not apprised of the sex of the babies they carried and were asked to record their eating habits both before and during the first trimester of pregnancy. After reviewing the data generated, the researchers split the participants into three groups, based on the number of calories consumed daily in the days before pregnancy occurred.
Eat Your Porridge
The group of women with the highest calorie intake at the time of conception was found to give birth to boys at a rate of 56% as compared with the group of women who had consumed the lowest number of calories, who birthed sons at a rate of 45%.
Those women who gave birth to sons had better quality diets with a wider range of nutrients. The women who ate breakfast cereal on a regular basis had more boys than those who shunned their porridge.
Dr. Fiona Mathews of the University of Exeter and a lead author of the report, stated, "This research may help to explain why in developed countries, where many young women choose to have low calorie diets, the proportion of boys born is falling.”
Scientists had already known that animals with greater resources at their disposal produce more male offspring. The phenomenon has been observed in horses, cows, certain species of deer and invertebrates. This newest study seems to bear evidence that the human species is no exception to this rule of nature. Researchers believe that the link between birthing male offspring and having access to a greater number of resources is due to the evolutionary drive to produce the greatest number of descendants.
Dr. Mathews comments that in most species, males can father more children than females. However, the size and status of the father is an issue, with the weaker specimens sometimes proving unable to breed. Females, on the other hand, breed with better consistency. Because of this distinction between the sexes, when many resources are available, a male baby is preferable, since this will be an investment that will bring the greatest number of grandchildren. On the other hand, when resources prove low, a daughter may be a better bet. As Mathews puts it, “…in leaner times having a daughter is a safer bet."
While sex determination depends on the sperm that is issued by the male partners, mothers seem able to provide conditions more conducive to sperm of one sex or another, depending on maternal diet.
While researchers haven't quite pinned down the mechanism for how this all works in mammals, IVF research long ago proved that a high level of glucose intake encourages male embryos to grow and develop while female embryos are inhibited. This effect can be mimicked by skipping breakfast, which causes glucose levels to drop and may be seen by the human body as a sign of distressed environmental conditions evidenced by a seeming lack of available food.
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