A new study says that what you eat prior to pregnancy may determine the gender of your baby.
The study, on sheep, led by R Michael Roberts from the Division of Animal Sciences at the University of Missouri has found that ewes fed with diet enriched in polyunsaturated fats for one month prior to conception have significantly greater odds of giving birth to male offspring.
"Our study ruled out body condition, ewe weight, previous births, time of breeding, and likely dominance as reasons for the gender skewing. Rather, it was the composition of the diet consumed in the time period around conception that was responsible for this sex-ratio effect," said Roberts.
Polyunsaturated fats are essential nutrients. It is believed that the dietary ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fats has important biological effects, especially in terms of inflammation, immunity and central nervous system signalling.
The team believes that in animal social groups, where a small number of dominant males mate with a large number of females, healthy, well fed female are more likely to give birth to male offspring while females consuming a poorer diet would have greater genetic success by giving birth to female offspring.
"Although this theory is attractive, former observations have often been contradictory, leading some to dismiss its relevance," said Roberts.
"This is the first experimental study in controlled conditions showing that supplementing maternal diet, in this case by increasing omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid intake, can skew the sex ratio towards males in a farm species," he added.
Researchers believe that these findings will be important to the livestock industry.
The study is published in BioMed Central's open access journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology.