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Is Mom's Diet a Key to Her Baby's Sex?

Researchers Question Findings of Study That Linked Breakfast Cereal to Delivery of Boys
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 14, 2009 -- A woman who eats breakfast cereal every day around the time of conception is not more likely to deliver a boy than a girl, contrary to the findings of a study published last year, say U.S. researchers who reanalyzed the original data.

But the authors of the original study, conducted in the U.K., stand by their conclusions; they say the U.S. researchers are overlooking their "big picture" finding -- that the status of a mother's diet prior to conception may influence whether she delivers a boy or a girl.

In the original study, British researchers who looked at the diets of 740 newly pregnant women had concluded that 59% of those who ate breakfast cereal daily around the time of conception gave birth to boys, while 43% of those who never or rarely ate breakfast cereal before conception had boys.

They asked the women to keep food logs before conception, during early pregnancy, and later on in pregnancy. They only found a link between the sex of the child and a mother's nutritional status around the time of conception.

They also found that women with higher calorie intakes before conception were more likely to have boys. While 56% of the women who took in the most calories had boys, only 45% of those who took in the least number of calories prior to conception had boys. The study was published in 2008 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

New Look at Study's Findings

"The study has no evidence that what you eat has any effect on gender," says S. Stanley Young, PhD, lead author of the reanalysis and assistant director for bioinformatics at the National Institute of Statistical Sciences, a nonprofit research organization in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

His report is published online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Young says he was alerted to the study and decided to take a look, reanalyze the data, and see if he reached the same conclusions. He says the British group continued to investigate a potential link between food intake and the baby's sex even when previous answers about dietary habits didn't support such an association -- a statistical misstep.

Trying to influence the sex of an unborn baby has been "of enormous interest forever," says Young. "If something as simple as eating cereal would have made any difference, we probably would have figured it out by now."

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