- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 24, 2008

PARIS (Agence France-Presse) — Oysters may excite the libido, but there is nothing like a hearty breakfast laced with sugar to boost a woman’s chances of conceiving a son, according to a study released yesterday.

Likewise, a low-energy diet that skimps on calories, minerals and nutrients is more likely to yield a female of the human species, says the study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Britain’s de facto academy of sciences.

Fiona Mathews of the University of Exeter in Britain and colleagues wanted to find out whether a woman’s diet had an effect on the sex of her offspring.

So they asked 740 first-time mothers who did not know whether their unborn babies were male or female to provide detailed records of eating habits before and after they became pregnant. The women were split into three groups according to the number of calories they consumed per day around the time of conception.

Fifty-six percent of the women in the group with the highest energy intake had sons, compared with 45 percent in the least-well-fed group.

Beside racking up a higher calorie count, the women who bore more sons also were more likely to have eaten a wider range of nutrients, including potassium, calcium and vitamins C, E and B-12.

The odds of producing a male child also rose sharply “for women who consumed at least one bowl of breakfast cereal daily compared with those who ate less than or equal to one bowl … a week,” the study reported.

These findings are consistent with a gradual shift in favor of girls over the past four decades in the sex ratio of newborns, the researchers said.

Despite the rising obesity rate, research has shown a reduction in the average energy uptake in countries with advanced economies. The number of adults who skip breakfast also has increased substantially.

“This research may help to explain why in developed countries, where many young women choose low-calorie diets, the proportion of boys is falling,” Ms. Mathews said.

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