You are what your mother eats

Eat cereal at breakfast - it could mean you'll give birth to a son! New research suggests that what we eat can strongly influence the sex of our children

New research suggests that whether women give birth to a girl or a boy is highly dependent on their diet. Those of us who eat more around the time of conception are more likely to have boys, while the rest of us will probably be looking at shades of pink for the nursery.

The study, by the Universities of Exeter and Oxford, looked at 740 first-time pregnant mothers, and suggest that women can influence the sex of their child through what they eat. More than half (56 percent) of the women put into a group for eating the most gave birth to boys, compared with 45 percent of the group who had consumed the least. Women who had sons were also likely to have a wider variety of nutrients including potassium, calcium and vitamins C,E and B12, while women who had eaten breakfast cereals were also more likely to have sons.

The lead author of the paper, Dr Fiona Mathews of the University of Exeter’s School of Biosciences, said that the 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. Over the last 40 years, there has been a small decline in the number of boys being born in industrialised countries such as the UK and USA.

“Our findings are particularly interesting given the recent debates within the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Committee about whether to regulate gender clinics that allow parents to select offspring sex, by manipulating sperm, for non-medical reasons.

Here we have evidence of a natural mechanism that means that women appear to be already controlling the sex of their offspring by their diet."

Although sex is genetically determined by fathers, this research suggests that mothers can influence the development of the sex of a child.

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The new research is published in the Royal Society Journal, Biological Sciences.

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