NEWS

Male embryos demand more food

PARIS (AFP) – Women who wolf down steak and chips, pasta and chocolate while they are pregnant may be expecting a boy rather than a girl, a study says. Male fetuses demand a higher energy intake than female ones because boys are bigger than girls, it says. Researchers monitored the dietary intake of 244 pregnant women who attended prenatal checks at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. None of the women knew the gender of the child they were carrying until it was born. Women who were pregnant with a boy had an 8 percent higher input of protein and a 9 percent higher intake of carbohydrates, and consumed 11 percent more animal fats and 15 percent more vegetable fats than women who were carrying a girl, the researchers found. The study is to be published in tomorrow’s issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Lead author Dimitrios Trichopoulos, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, told AFP that the women with boys ate lots more of the food they normally liked rather than craving different or exotic foods. The findings support the theory that male embryos have higher energy requirements than females, he said. «In general, male embryos are much more vulnerable than female embryos. Fetal mortality is higher among male embryos,» he said in a phone interview from Athens. «In situations of famine, you would expect boys to be more vulnerable because they have higher requirements, so they will be the first ones to pay the price… but the last thing that happens when there is a famine is to keep statistics, so we don’t know that for sure.» The study suggests that the mother receives a «must-eat» signal through the male hormone testosterone secreted by the fetal testicles.