Women who ate more total calories also delivered more boys, even though the overall male-to-female birth ratio among the study participants was close to 50/50.
The early findings in no way prove that what a woman does or doesn't eat prior to conception influences her baby's sex.
But they do hint at a sex-selection bias among humans similar to that seen in other animals, favoring male births among well-fed mothers and female births among mothers who are less well nourished.
They may also help explain a subtle decline in the proportion of male births in industrialized countries like the U.S., researcher Fiona Mathews, PhD, tells WebMD.
"It is true that there is an obesity epidemic, but there is also an increase in dieting and very unstable dietary habits among young women," she says. "And more people are skipping breakfast. Our data suggest that these things may play a role in the small but noticeable decline in male births."
The study involved 740 newly pregnant British women who had not given birth before and who did not know the sex of their fetuses. All the women were white, non-obese, and had no medical problems.
The women completed detailed food-frequency questionnaires during the first pregnancy exam and well into their pregnancy, and they were asked to keep a detailed food journal for a week around the time of their fourth month of pregnancy.
They were also asked to recall their dietary habits in the year prior to conceiving.
Using this data, the researchers determined that women who ate the most calories around the time of conception delivered more boys, with 56% giving birth to male babies, compared with 45% of women who ate the fewest calories prior to conceiving.