There's an old wives tale that eating bananas for breakfast will help women give birth to a boy, and a new study out of England claims that, to some extent, the tale is true: having a high potassium intake as well as a high sodium intake during conception can make women more likely to mother males. The research, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences and comes out of the universities of Exeter and Oxford, also reports that women who skip breakfast or keep to restrictive diets are more likely to have girls. According to head researcher Fiona Mathews, "This research may help to explain why in developed countries, where many young women choose to have low-calorie diets, the proportion of boys born is falling."
Reuters reports that there has been a small but notable decline in the number of male births in developed nations in the past forty years, and Mathews and the other researchers believe that there is an evolutionary reason for their results. "If a mother has plentiful resources then it can make sense to invest in producing a son because he is likely to produce more grandchildren than would a daughter. However, in leaner times having a daughter is a safer bet," she says. ("The F-Word" blog points out that, among other things, the study "ignores the fact that worldwide girl children are more likely to suffer abuse, neglect and to die before reaching the age of 5 years because boy children are more highly valued. The notion that the research is 'benign' is entirely misplaced and quite dangerous.")
Of course, eating salt-laden chips for breakfast while trying to conceive isn't a sure way to give birth to a baby boy (look at Victoria Beckham: she has three boys, and I highly doubt that's because of her high caloric intake!). The Exeter/Oxford study looked at 740 first-time pregnant mothers, and 56% of the moms who had the highest energy (aka calorie) intake had boys, whereas only 45% of the low-cal moms had sons. (The study also reports that mums who the tried and true pregnancy combo of pickles and ice cream gave birth to a golden retriever puppy. Aw!)
What Are Little Boys Made Of? Scientists Pinpoint Bananas [Guardian]
Skipping Breakfast May Mean Your Baby Is A Girl [Reuters]
More Nonsense Research... [The F-Word]