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Want A Boy? Eat Cereal!

Can a woman really determine whether she will have a boy or a girl? Folk lore offers lots of advice: Indulge in chocolate for a girl. Eat red meat for a boy. Conceive under a full moon to get a girl. Then there's the high-tech option: Fertility clinics offer "sperm sorting" for those willing to go the medical route.

But science has generally dismissed the notion that a woman can boost her chances of having a boy or a girl by what she eats. Well, guess what? A new British study suggests that a woman's diet may play a role after all.

Fiona Mathews of the University of Exeter and her colleagues studied 740 women who were pregnant for the first time.The more calories they consumed in the year before they got pregnant the greater their chances of ending up with a boy. Fifty-six percent of the women who ate the most calories had boys compared to 45 percent of those who consumed the least, the researchers reported this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

When the researchers examined exactly what the women ate, those who tended to eat cereal for breakfast were the most likely to have a boy. That's right: A big bowl of cereal. Same goes for potassium and salt -- providing support for those old wives tales.

All this might sound crazy. But Mathews says there is an evolutionary explanation that makes sense. And it fits with previous research involving other species. Males consume more resources -- they breastfeed and remain dependent on their mothers longer than girls. They also produce more offspring. So if a woman's body senses there's plenty of food around, it might give male sperm an edge during conception and sustain more male fetuses in her womb.

The findings could help explain why fewer boys are being born in many developed countries, including the United States and Britain. Despite the epidemics of obesity in those countries, overall women are consuming fewer calories on average. That's because a lot of women are dieting all the time. And that often means giving up the morning meal.

Now none of this means a woman should gorge if she wants a boy. The amount of food these women in the new study ate was not excessive -- just at the high end of what's recommended.

The take-home message: If you want a boy it can't hurt to eat a good well-balanced high-energy diet, including a potassium-rich banana every day. And don't skip breakfast.

By Rob Stein  |  April 24, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
 
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Comments

Umm.. the abstract, at least, doesn't even mention the difference between causation and correlation, let alone how they controlled for it.

What evidence is there that the cereal *causes* the gender selection? Couldn't it be that "women who are more likely to give birth to boys are also more likely to eat cereal"?

Posted by: Jay Levitt | April 24, 2008 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Another correlational study masquerading as a causal one. With all the truly severe medical problems to which medical science could address their time, money and efforts, why are researchers engaged in such trivia.

Posted by: Mar | April 24, 2008 8:18 AM | Report abuse

More "Junk Science" - The "study's findings" are based on recollection and there appear to be absolutely NO controls at all. I don't even remember what I ate last WEEK. Let alone for the past YEAR!

There ARE valid studies that indicate that parents can pre-determine the sex of their baby - but it has nothing to do with food. It has to do with the proximity of the impregnation sex act to ovulation.

The theory has about a 90% correlation between timing and sex. Intercourse within three days prior to ovulation yields a girl. Intercourse during or just after ovulation (a half day) yields a boy. Timing after ovulation trends toward 50% of either the further you get away from ovulation.

This theory is based on the "swimming speed" and the persistence and energy levels, proven characteristic differences in the sperm, between those for girls and boys. Not on subjective recollection of what the mothers ate for the last year.

Posted by: nofluer | April 24, 2008 9:27 AM | Report abuse

As the paper points out, no analysis was done on whether breakfast--at all--was associated with fetal sex, but that cereal was a very common breakfast food in the UK and not usually eaten at other times of the day. It's not a stretch to think that eating breakfast is associated with total calorie intake.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 24, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

nofleur, I've certainly heard that theory many times. But how does it explain boy/girl twins?

Posted by: va | April 24, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Why is the assumption that people want a boy more than a girl? More than half the headlines I've read on this topic talk about how to plan for a boy, including this article.

On a different note, even if breakfast is a cause and not a correlation (which remains unproven), the increase in likelihood of one gender over another is so small as to be insignificant.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 24, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

where's the evidence people?

Posted by: livia | April 29, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Intresting. I guess I was one of the people that this "research" didn't include in their findings. I have 3 children all on a restricted diet- and guess what. ALL BOYS. No cereal, no high calories, very limited fruit. You be the judge. I was just happy they made it here healthy. Gender was not an issue. Please eat healthy for health of your child, not the gender.

Posted by: Jen | May 1, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

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