[…]

babiesToday it’s reported if you want to conceive a boy you should eat breakfast cereals, bacon and banana’s. For a girl you should go on a diet.

A survey of 740 pregnant women found that boys were slightly more likely if a women had high energy intake prior to conception, and that the individual food with most impact was breakfast cereal.

From New Scientist

So my problems with the research? They divided their sample group into three categories – high, medium and low calorific intakes which means each category has a spread of intakes and therefore making the perceived differences between them merely a construct of the research rather than a solid provable fact. It would have been better had the researchers proven a correlation using a straight-line graph showing increased calorie intake is correlative with more conceptions of male babies.

But there are more problems

  • the research only takes into account live births and ignores miscarriages and terminations. It also only takes into account first pregnancies.
  • It is reporting causation (i.e. that one factor caused another, in this case high calorie diets and male babies) whereas the research itself can only support correlation (that there is a relationship but we don’t understand the mechanics of it).
  • the research claims to be motivated by “concern” at the drop in male babies and blames dieting for this. However the “drop” is 1 in 1000 in developed nations – something certainly within the bounds of normal birth rate fluctuations. So alongside claims that girls doing well in education is a bad thing, now girls being born is also a bad thing.
  • It’s a wholly Western preoccupation which 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.
  • Only one of the articles covering this story advises women to be extremely cautious about trying to implement this as it may cause problems for foetal development. Indeed the lead researcher, Fiona Mathews, has claimed: “her findings provide hints of a cheap, “natural” way to select the sex of a child” New Scientist

Articles covering this include bbc.co.uk, The Guardian and the New Scientist.