Does eating chicken during pregnancy cause tinier penises in sons?
Is this true? theAsianparent goes on a truth-seeking mission...
There’s a lot of ongoing debate about the pros and cons of eating chicken. One of the biggest issues is related to concerns about the use of antibiotics and hormones when breeding chicken, and the impact of this on human consumers of this popular meat. This is especially relevant to pregnant women who need to be extra careful about what they consume.
One common belief is that eating chicken during pregnancy can shrink a developing baby boy’s penis. Is this true? Where did this rumour originate from? And can eating chicken during pregnancy really affect your developing baby? Let’s find out.
theAsiaparent went on a fact-finding mission to uncover the truth (if any) behind this common belief, and we traced the source to, you guessed it, America.
In the USA, the National Buffalo Wing Festival hosts several chicken wing-eating competitions every year. However, the organisation People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have urged pregnant women not to attend.
Lindsay Rajt, PETA’s associate director of campaigns, sent a letter to Drew Cerza, the founder of the festival.
In it, she argues that previous research shows eating chicken during pregnancy causes two serious health issues for babies. Specifically, tinier penis size in sons and blocked arteries in children, after birth.
These claims about eating chicken during pregnancy sound very serious, but are they really true? A deeper investigation about eating chicken during pregnancy reveals the truth.
No, eating chicken during pregnancy won’t give your son a small penis
The research on which PETA based its claims hadn’t actually studied the effects of eating chicken during pregnancy. Rather, the study focused on how becoming exposed to phthalate could affect unborn sons.
Specifically, the study delved into how phthalate affects the sons’ reproductive system — one aspect being penis size.
The study does confirm that mums who were exposed to the largest degree of phthalate exposure had a higher chance of giving birth to a boy with smaller penises compared to mums who had the smallest degree of phthalate exposure.
The science behind it simple.
Phthalates could reduce how much testosterone a boy receives while he is still growing in the womb, which delays his reproductive development.
This reduced reproductive growth has been connected to other problems. For instance, boys can experience a higher risk of undescended testicles and a tinier distance between the anus and the genitals.
Shanna H. Swan, Ph.D., is a professor part of the department of preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Swan led the study which PETA quotes. According to her, the link between eating chicken during pregnancy and smaller penis sizes is weak.
Why is this so? According to Swan, there’s a variety of ways people can come into contact with phthalates. This includes using toiletries, eating meals from plastic containers, and eating anything from a massive list of foods that contain phthalates.
But, poultry is not included in the list of top foods with phthalates.
Can eating chicken during pregnancy lead my children to have clogged arteries?
PETA didn’t specifically state how they got hold of this information. However, an Australian article published on February in the journal Fetal and Neonatal Edition of Archives of Disease of Childhood seems to be the source of PETA’s claim.
The study had discovered that the arterial walls of babies of overweight or obese women were 0.06 millimeters wider immediately after delivery compared to those of other infants.
Micheal Skilton is one of the senior research fellows at the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders at Australia’s Sydney Medical School.
He says the widening of the wall doesn’t mean that the arteries are obstructed. Rather, it’s a sign “of early atherosclerosis and is consistent with higher risk of heart attack and stroke in later life” (still a cause for concern).
What we can learn from this
In short, don’t worry about eating chicken when you’re pregnant, mums. It won’t cause any health risks to your babies.
However, the link between phthalate and the possibility of reproductive problems in sons is quite disturbing. Still, there are ways to limit phthalate from entering your body.
Swan suggests that pregnant mums:
- consume organic, unprocessed food as much as possible (many experts have guessed that processing food adds phthalates into them)
- avoid using plastic boxes whenever you can – especially if they’re used to contain food – as per the recommendations of Environmental Working Group’s regarding tips to buy safer products.
- re-heat or heat up food in glass boxes instead. Even though not all plastics contain phthalate, they are likely have some level. So it’s best to use glass instead.