12:52 29 November 2007
The age-old myth that what a woman eats determines the sex of her child is still very much alive.
And now it seems that red meat and salty snacks, such as the classic burger and chips, lead to women giving birth to baby boys. Chocolate on the other hand, is thought to help to produce girls.
Now even science has suggested mythical stories may be true. Research found that mice with low blood-sugar levels (a good indicator of a sugar-rich diet) produce more female than male offspring.
The researchers gave 20 female mice a steroid, dexamethasone, which kept their blood-sugar levels low. The sex of their litters was then compared with that of 20 mice on a regular diet.
Those eating normally produced offspring that were 53% male. But those on the steroid produced litters that were only 41% male.
The results showed that, in mice at least, a diet that is high in sugar can lead to more female offspring.
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But Elissa Cameron, who led the project, told The Daily Mail that it was unclear how blood-sugar levels affect the sex of the offspring.
Sex is determined by a chromosome contained in the sperm - X for a girl and Y for a boy. Women have two X chromosones.
But diet, in men, can have an impact by altering the proportion of sperm carrying X and Y chromosomes.
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Professor Cameron said her work raised the possibility that diet can influence the proportion of males and females in a population.
She said it also offered a possible answer to a key question in evolutionary theory - understanding the mechanisms through which animals 'select' the sex off their offspring.
Other studies have shown that the time of year a baby is conceived can have an impact on its sex.
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