Royal Society Publishing

Acute undernutrition is not associated with excess of females at birth in humans: the Dutch Hunger Winter

Aryeh D. Stein, Patricia A. Zybert, L. H. Lumey


It has been suggested that maternal undernutrition results in adjustment of the sex ratio at birth, favouring females. We tested this hypothesis using births during the Dutch Hunger Winter of 1944–1945, an acute severe famine of seven months' duration. There was no evidence of an excess of female births among deliveries of human infants exposed to famine in any period in gestation. Indeed, among deliveries to women maximally exposed to famine prior to conception, there was an excess (odds ratio = 1.31, 95% CI 1.09–1.58; p = 0.004) of male offspring. Our data do not provide any support for acute and severe maternal undernutrition as a trigger for an increase in female conceptions or in male foetal deaths in human populations.

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