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Hoping for a baby boy? Go bananas

CHICAGO — Snips and snails and puppy dog tails … and cereal and bananas?

That could be what little boys are made of, according to surprising new research suggesting that what a woman eats before pregnancy influences the gender of her baby.

Having a hearty appetite, eating potassium-rich foods, including bananas, and not skipping breakfast all seemed to raise the odds of having a boy. The British research is billed as the first in humans to show a link between a woman's diet and whether she has a boy or a girl.

It is not proof, but it fits with evidence from test-tube fertilization that male embryos thrive best with longer exposure to nutrient-rich lab cultures, said Dr. Tarun Jain, a fertility specialist at the University of Illinois at Chicago who wasn't involved in the study.

The study's lead author, University of Exeter researcher Fiona Mathews, said the findings fit with research showing that male embryos aren't likely to survive in lab cultures with low sugar levels. Skipping meals can lower blood-sugar levels.

The idea isn't necessarily as far-fetched as it sounds. While sperm determine a baby's gender, it could be that certain nutrients or eating patterns make women's bodies more hospitable to sperm carrying the male chromosome, Jain said.

"It's an interesting question. I'm not aware of anyone else looking at it in this manner," he said.

The study was published Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British medical journal.

The study's results reflect women at opposite ends of a normal eating pattern, not those with extreme habits, Mathews said.

Gender fix?

The British study involved about 700 first-time pregnant women in the United Kingdom who didn't know the sex of their fetuses. They were asked about their eating habits in the year before getting pregnant.

• Among women with the highest calorie intake before pregnancy (but still within a normal, healthy range), 56 percent had boys, versus 45 percent of the women with the lowest calorie intake.

• Women who ate at least one bowl of breakfast cereal daily were 87 percent more likely to have boys than those who ate no more than one bowlful per week.

• Those who had boys ate an additional 300 milligrams of potassium daily on average, "which links quite nicely with the old wives' tale that if you eat bananas you'll have a boy," said University of Exeter researcher Fiona Mathews, the study's lead author.

• Women who had boys also ate about 400 calories more daily than those who had girls, on average, she said.

>>Fast facts

Gender fixes?

The British study involved about 700 first-time-pregnant women in the United Kingdom who were asked about their eating habits in the year before getting pregnant.

• Among women with the highest calorie intake before pregnancy (but still within a normal, healthy range), 56 percent had boys, compared with 45 percent of the women with the lowest calorie intake.

• Women who ate at least one bowl of breakfast cereal daily were 87 percent more likely to have boys than those who ate no more than one bowlful per week.

• Those who had boys ate an additional 300 milligrams of potassium daily, on average, "which links quite nicely with the old wives' tale that if you eat bananas, you'll have a boy," said researcher Fiona Mathews.

• Women who had boys also ate about 400 calories more daily than those who had girls, on average, she said.

Hoping for a baby boy? Go bananas 04/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 11:04pm]
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