Sunday, April 27, 2008

Breakfast - Now Determining the Sex of Your Baby?

When I was in my teens, a few of us used to sit around and daydream about our futures and the families we would have (yes, complete with white picket fences - you can stop laughing any time now). For reasons that I am not really certain of, save to chalk it up to socialized expectations, we always wanted either balanced numbers of children - a boy and a girl, or some combination. But everyone always wanted at least one of each. So, being teens and curious and in the days prior to Google and this fancy "internet" thing that's all the rage these days, we would read books and magazines and whatever else we could get our hands on, scouring for articles on precisely how to best skew the odds in favour of having a baby of the preferred sex.

What time of the month to have sex, what positions were better for X or Y sperm, whether or not the acidity of the vagina changed the longevity of the sperm - we read it all, clipping articles and saving them, writing down the names of books, making photocopies.

I don't remember, really, how much credit we ever gave these ideas. I do, however, remember that we scoffed openly at the idea of what you eat affecting the sex of your child. How naive did the amorphous "they" think we were, anyhow?

Needless to say, it doesn't surprise me that of all the possible wives tales about how to fix the sex of your child, the one that looks to be at least provisionally plausible? What you eat.
A study of 740 first time mothers in Britain shows that whether moms eat breakfast cereal or not might determine whether their bundle of joy is a boy or a girl. ..."Prior to pregnancy, breakfast cereal, but no other item, was strongly associated with infant sex," the researchers write in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. "Women producing male infants consumed more breakfast cereal than those with female infants."

The reason is a mystery, but Mathews speculates that glucose may be key. This type of sugar, converted by the human body into energy, is a by-product of the breakdown of carbohydrates such as those in breakfast cereal. Women who do not eat breakfast tend to have low levels of glucose, and other studies have shown that glucose enhances the growth of male fetuses in vitro.
Lead researcher Fiona Mathews thinks that this might be another way the body gauges whether or not food is plentiful or scarce; in a famine, the less energy intense female fetus makes more sense to biologically invest in, a finding echoed in a lot of animals, which produce more male offspring when food is bountiful. (I would guess it has something to do with future offspring potential - men can create quite a few more children than women, so populations would be checked, to a degree, by having more wombs than sperm.)

But maybe the most interesting thing about the research?
The finding may explain a persistent and puzzling drop in the ratio of male to female births in well-fed industrialized nations, a fact that Mathews ascribes to the decline in the proportion of women eating breakfast.
There's still quite a bit of research that needs to be done, including reproducing it in other countries and cultures, but it's certainly intriguing, as is. And I suppose for those who do want to conceive and are hoping for a specific sex, it's at least a little bit more reliable than much of the stuff I was reading those many years ago.
-Kelly Hills

Kelly--have to jump in to add this item from The Onion.

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