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Mom's Diet May Influence Baby's Gender

BabyWhat a woman eats before pregnancy may play a role in whether the baby is a boy or a girl, according to surprising new research.

Women who have a hearty appetite, eat a lot of potassium-rich foods like bananas, and don’t skip breakfast appear more likely to have a boy. Previous studies have also shown that male embryos do best with longer exposure to nutrient-rich lab cultures.

It could be that more nutrients are needed to build boys than girls. 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, a possible sign that they were skipping breakfast.

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 had boys also ate an additional 300 mg of potassium daily on average, and about 400 calories more daily, compared to women who had girls.

The research involved about 700 first-time pregnant women, and has been billed as the first to show a link between a woman’s diet and the gender of her offspring. The women were asked about their eating habits in the year before getting pregnant.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

The findings of the British study described above strike me as at best tentative, and at worst dubious. The leap to the conclusion that women who ate less breakfast cereal were skipping breakfast and therefore getting less nutrients, for example, seems unsupported by any real evidence.  In fact, breakfast cereals are not a good breakfast at all for most people, especially the typical highly processed breakfast cereals available to most, including those in this study. Although breakfast is important, there are many better options than cereal, and at least some of the women who were avoiding a grain and sugar-filled morning might very well have been opting for a healthier choice like fresh vegetable juice, especially if you are a carb or mixed nutritional type.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t any connection between a woman’s diet and her child’s gender, of course; I just don’t believe that this study is anything close to the final word on the subject.  What is indisputable, however, is that your choice of foods when you are pregnant can indeed have repercussions that could affect the course of your child’s entire life.

The Dangers of Soy

As just one example, when mothers who eat an entirely vegetarian diet during pregnancy have boys, those children have a fivefold greater risk of developing hypospadias, a birth defect of the penis.  In hypospadias, the opening of the penis is found on the underside of the penis rather than at the tip, requiring corrective surgery -- untreated, it can interfere with urination and sexual function.

The birth defect is most likely due to the greater exposure vegetarians have to phytoestrogens, the hormone-like compounds found in soy.  For the exact same reason, vegetarians with a soy-rich diet during pregnancy expose their female offspring to a higher risk of breast cancer later in life.

No matter what you may have heard, soy is not a health food.  There is a 70 billion dollar industry that funds many studies attempting to show that soy has benefits so that you will consume it. Their goal is to sell more domestic soy. Their goal is NOT your health.  Pregnant women in particular should avoid soy completely, with the exception of fermented soy products which have a greatly lowered phytoestrogen content.

Don’t Overeat

“Eating for two” used to be the recommended way of doing things, but it’s not the best idea for your health or the health of your child. Women at a healthy weight should gain no more than 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.  However, many women actually gain 40 pounds or more.

Being overweight or obese while pregnant increases the risk for a variety of problems, including:

  • Preeclampsia
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Premature birth
  • Birth defects
  • Have a stillborn child
  • Having children who may be obese

One study showed that one in three UK women who die during pregnancy or childbirth are grossly overweight, and the death is usually associated with obesity.  And if you put on too much weight during pregnancy, you very well might keep it on for years, increasing your risk of many health problems.

Babies born to overweight mothers have twice the risk of congenital heart defects and three times the chance of being born with omphalocele, a defect in which intestines or other abdominal organs protrude through the navel.  They also have a greater risk of spinal cord and brain defects, and a variety of cancers.

The Benefits of Omega-3’s

Not all news is bad news, however.  There are some steps you can take during pregnancy which will greatly benefit your child’s future health.  One of the best is increasing your intake of omega-3 fats.

A study published in the British Medical Journal clearly showed that omega-3’s are associated with lessening the risk for premature delivery. They dramatically reduce pregnancy complications, and do wonders to improve the health of all children.

A high intake of omega-3’s during the later stages of pregnancy can increase fetus growth (without extending the duration of the pregnancy!)

In fact, it can even increase your child’s intelligence.

To sum up, an awareness of which foods are good for your baby -- and which are harmful -- can reduce the risks of birth defects, protect your child from obesity, and even increase their intelligence.

Someday, it might be possible to influence the gender of a baby by knowledgeable food choices.  But even if that time comes, your food choices can result in a healthy baby, which is far more important in the long run.