LONDON: Eating certain foods in the run up to conception may influence the sex of a womanâ€™s offspring, suggests a new study conducted on mice.
The new study may give credence to common belief that expecting mothers who want a boy should eat more red meat and salty snacks and fish, vegetables, chocolates and sweets if they want a girl. Lead researcher Elissa Cameron and colleagues at the University of Pretoria in South Africa examined how changes in diet might influence sex ratios â€” the proportion of males to females in a population.
For this, they altered the levels of blood sugar in female mice during conception, by feeding the mice a steroid called dexamethasone (DEX) â€” a steroid which inhibits the transport of glucose into the bloodstream.
The scientists gave 20 female mice water dosed with DEX during conception. They gave it during the first three days when the females were exposed to males. Afterwards, the mice were given plain water. The researchers measured the blood-sugar levels of these mice, as well as that of 20 controlled females several times during the experiment.
The average blood-glucose levels in mice that received steroid dropped from 6.47 to 5.24 millimoles/litre. The team found that 53% of the pups born to the control females mice were male whereas only 41% of those born to the mice receiving DEX were male, reported the online edition of â€˜New Scientistâ€™.
However, the scientists said exactly how a drop in blood sugar causes more female births remains unclear. But the opposite also seems to work. A previous study involving diabetic mice, found that rodents with high blood sugar levels produced more male offspring than expected.
Off late, research into eating and smoking habits during conception has thrown up lot of information. A recent study linked moderate drinking during pregnancy to thousands of serious childhood disorders including autism.
Dr Maggie Watts, vice chairman on alcohol for the Scottish Association of Alcohol and Drug Action Teams, fears that even low levels of drinking could be related to a range of behavioural problems in young children, the cause of which has previously been a mystery.
Sources: The Times Of India