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Mums' High Calorie Diet Boosts Baby Boy Chances

By Staff

Washington : Eating a high calorie diet around the time of conception increases the chances of the baby being a born, finds a new study by researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Oxford.

The study, the first to that provides evidence that a child"s sex is associated with the mother"s diet, found a clear link between higher energy intake around the time of conception and the birth of sons.

Researchers focused on 740 first-time pregnant women in the UK, who did not know the sex of their foetus.

The women were asked to keep records of their eating habits before and during the early stages of pregnancy.

They were then split into three groups according to the number of calories consumed per day around the time they conceived.

The researchers found that more than half of the women (56pct) in the group with the highest energy intake at conception had sons.

Boffins noted that apart from consuming more calories, women who had sons were more likely to have eaten a higher quantity and wider range of nutrients, including potassium, calcium and vitamins C, E and B12.

There was also a strong correlation between women eating breakfast cereals and producing sons.

Dr Fiona Mathews of the University of Exeter, lead author on the paper, said that the findings may help explain the falling birth-rate of boys in developed countries.

"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," she said.

"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," she added.

The study appears in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Story first published: Monday, December 22, 2008, 12:08 [IST]
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