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» The Ornery American Forum » General Comments » Eating a lot might make one a boy

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Author Topic: Eating a lot might make one a boy
scifibum
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This is the story.

quote:
A study from Exeter University reveals how we can help to determine the sex of our offspring by what we eat. “If you want a boy, eat a healthy diet with a high calorie intake, including breakfast,” says Fiona Mathews, the lead researcher of the study.

Yet as a nation we are becoming heavier by the day - 56 per cent of British women are classed as overweight or obese. So is it sensible to give all women of childbearing age who want a baby boy carte blanche to pack away the calories?

OK, so the first paragraph is unclear. Who should eat a healthy high calorie diet, the father or the mother? The second paragraph indicates it's the mother - but that seems to be completely nonsensical since women only have an X chromosome. Are we to believe that diet affects how the egg interacts with X- and Y-carrying sperm?

Another aspect that bothers me is that it seems like this should mean that the well-off should have historically have had more boys than the poor...and we should have noticed. I haven't ever heard anything about that, though.

Scientists? Is this junk science being touted just to make the news?

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RickyB
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"Are we to believe that diet affects how the egg interacts with X- and Y-carrying sperm?"

Is this so implausible?

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scifibum
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Maybe not. Hard for me to imagine, but then I'm no microbiologist. [Smile]
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LoverOfJoy
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Just dropping in (I can't seem to stay away even if I can't really follow or keep up with the larger threads).

My understanding was that the male sperm was the faster sperm while the female sperm was hardier and lasted a bit longer. So if you have sex on the day of ovulation you are slightly more likely to have a male baby while if you had sex before ovulation you have a slightly higher chance of having a female baby.

I guess it's possible that a more healthy female may make a better environment for the sperm to last longer so that the male/female sperm viability difference becomes smaller. In that case you would increase the overall chance of having a male.

Also, a healthier woman has a more regular ovulation cycle. If you are trying to get pregnant you are more likely to correctly have sex on the day of ovulation (and have a boy).

Also, a significant number of fertilized eggs don't make it. Males have a disproportionately higher chance of not making it. However, it's possible that a healthier mother has less die off, thereby increasing the overall proportion of males who make it.

All of these differences are very small, though. The odds, no matter how you look at it are still pretty close to 50/50.

I'm sure the biologists in the house can correct me if I've got this totally wrong, though.

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OpsanusTau
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Here is a link to the full text in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Here is an excerpt that says a little something about how or why it might happen that maternal nutrition would affect fetal sex.

quote:
In general, the mechanisms of sex allocation in mammals are not well understood; however, a pathway has been proposed that could explain our associations of foetal sex with energy intake and breakfast cereal consumption around conception. In vitro, glucose enhances the growth and development of male conceptuses while inhibiting that of females (Larson et al. 2001). Skipping breakfast extends the normal period of nocturnal fasting, depresses circulating glucose levels and may be interpreted by the body as indicative of poor environmental conditions.
What is happening is NOT that maternal diet affects which sperm is carrying which gamete - that is obviously, as scifi noted, implausible.

But, X- and Y- bearing sperm are definitely different (one of them is faster, and one is stronger, but I can't remember which). So it may be that in conditions that the maternal body interprets as environmental stress, the maternal body alters vaginal & uterine conditions to favor the X-bearing.
I'm not so sure about that, but it's a possibility.

And then according to the piece of research, glucose differentially affects male and female zygotes.

I think what is strongly implied, but not clearly stated, is that under female-favoring conditions, male zygotes are likely to fail.

The authors seem to be thinking that the mother's body has sort of a "Yes or No" gate; if the zygote is male, and the mother's body is in a state consistent with poor environmental conditions, the mother's body will say "No" to it, where a female might still get told "Yes."

Because of the way this study was conducted (the women were recruited 14 weeks into the pregnancy), what we're looking at is the state of affairs after the selection event has taken place.

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scifibum
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cool. makes more sense now. Thanks LoJ (nice to see ya, btw), and OpsanusTau.

Most of my exposure to new scientific findings is through standard news media. The information is always distorted or sensationalized, except when it's simply woefully incomplete. I suppose I could go looking for data closer to the source, but with you people spoiling me I don't have the motivation. [Wink]

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OpsanusTau
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I know what you mean about science and the standard news media!

A few weeks ago, I was staying with my aunt and uncle and there was a pretty interesting headline in their local newspaper.
It was something about how extremely premature babies don't do as well as adults - shorter lifespan, less likely to reproduce, etc etc.

The reporter who wrote the article obviously read a news release and talked to the researchers, and came out with a story that sounded kind of like this:
"Coming out of the uterus early is bad for babies. If the pregnancy doesn't last full term, the baby will have a high probability of childhood illness or death, and will have a 70% chance of never having children."

What is interesting about that is the total, total screwup of causality. It's not that being ejected from the womb early causes problems later on in life; it's that there's some nebulous thing going wrong that causes things to start out badly and continue in a less-than-optimal way for the whole life.

I mean, without modern medicine, a baby born in the sixth or seventh month would mostly be a miscarriage, not a premature birth.

Anyways. Yeah, news media + science = lame.

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Omega M.
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Heh. I first took the thread title to mean, "Eating a lot might turn you into a boy."
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scifibum
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I win!
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