Monday, May 5, 2008

Breakfast for boys

Every morning of my life I have woken up ravenous. I can’t relate to you people who get nauseated by the thought of food upon first waking. The minute I open my eyes, I feel that rumble in my belly, a pinch of dizziness in my head and I am ready to chow down.

I'm too lazy for cooking eggs at the crack of dawn, so usually I grab a quick bowl of homemade granola or join Will for some oatmeal. Now it seems my breakfast habit (and perhaps specifically my cereal-for-breakfast habit) may have landed me two sons, according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. The study shows a link between high energy intake around the time of conception and the birth of sons.

A similar phenomenon has been seen in deer, horses and cows – all animals which I enjoy comparing myself to, by the way. And the old evolutionary theory behind it all is that if well-nourished females produce more males, those males typically produce more offspring (at least in animal populations where sex-outside-of-marriage is not frowned upon), which theoretically makes for a healthier overall population.

Here are a couple excerpts from this University of Oxford article reviewing the study:

“The study focused on 740 first-time pregnant mothers in the UK, who did not know the sex of their fetus. They were asked to provide 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. 56 per cent of the women in the group with the highest energy intake at conception had sons, compared with 45 per cent in the lowest group. As well as 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…”

“Although sex is genetically determined by fathers, mothers appear able to favour the development of one sex of infant rather than another. The mechanism is not yet understood in mammals, but it is known from IVF research that high levels of glucose encourage the growth and development of male embryos while inhibiting female embryos. In humans, skipping breakfast depresses glucose levels and so may be interpreted by the body as indicating poor environmental conditions and low food availability.”

There was a time long before Owen’s birth when I thought it might be fun to have a boy and a girl. But, if I could do it all again, knowing what I know now about the joy of mothering Will and Owen, I’d say wholeheartedly: Bring on the breakfast!

If any of you have tales of trying to rig the gender of your baby at conception, I would be fascinated to hear them. I know many people go way beyond putting baseball bats under beds. Here's hoping no one starves themselves in their desperate pursuit of a baby girl.


Dana said...

That's an interesting theory! I definitely had a better diet when I conceived my son than when I conceived my daughter. Though I've always been a breakfast person.

Another factor that seems to play into girl vs boy baby is the timing of intercourse relative to ovulation. Boy making sperm are faster, lighter and more fragile. Girl making sperm are slower, heavier and heartier. If intercourse occurs right at the time of ovulation, the boy sperm will "win the race". But if there is any waiting around for the egg to be done, the girl sperm can outlast the boy sperm. Toni Weschler discusses it in "Taking Charge of Your Fertility", and references the book "How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby" by Landrum Shettles. He claimed that his method was approx 80% effective.

I'd love to hear your recipe for homemade granola!

Annie Addington said...

I remember reading some debate a while back about whether there's really any evidence to support the Shettles method for gender selection (I did the reading after Owen was well on the way -- and since we're stopping with two it was out of pure interest; no plans for application!). Thanks for summarizing it though.

And I'm going to post that homemade granola recipe for you soon.