Mountain Dew and Birth Control

Posted on 12 Sep 2014 16:07

Sometime in the 1990's, rumors began circulating that Mountain Dew had some helpful or dangerous effects on your reproductive health, depending on which rumor you heard, and your perspective when you heard them. The main claim was that Mountain Dew was an effective contraceptive. All you had to do was drink it before having sex, and not pregnancy would occur.

It is almost certain that these general rumors led to the belief that Mountain Dew could have the same effect whether consumed by the male, or female, but most of the specific effects claimed, regarded males, and concerned either birth control, if you're a glass-half-full kind of person or impotence, if you're of the glass-half-empty persuasion. No matter what the specifics though, the rumors were believed by many teenagers, and by 1999, this information was being passed from teen to teen: "Mountain Dew is good birth control." No condemn needed!

To be clear, Mountain Dew is not the only soda to be associated with contraception. Coca Cola has been, and still is, believed by some to be an effective spermicide, supposedly due to its high pH. This rumor began in the 1950's and kept up through the 1960's. Reportedly, Coca-Cola is still used as a spermicidal douche in some third world countries and the potential for Coke's spermicidal properties was taken seriously enough for at least one study to examine the claim experimentally.

The study entitled Effect of Coke on Sperm Mobility by Umpierre, et al. appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, at the time when New Coke was still on the market, way back in 1985. The paper reported the results of mixing sperm samples into Coke Classic, New Coke, Diet Coke, and Caffeine-free Coke. According to the study, after one minute in Diet Coke, no sperm were left swimming, However, after one minute in Coke Classic, only 8.5% were still mobile. After one minute in the New Coke, 41.6 were still kicking (this is not surprising, as New Coke was weak on all fronts). Diet Coke was a sperm-killing champ, though, as after one minute in Diet Coke, not one sperm was still swimming. I did not read the actual study, since I didn't deem it worth the expense, and so I am relying on the sources cited here, which did not report on the results of caffeine-free.

The Coke Classic results were still a spermal decimation, but Diet Coke clearly is sperm hell. So, I'd say myth confirmed. Go ahead and put a little Diet Coke in a turkey baster and…well, you know. Let me know how it goes! 1,2

Dr Pepper, at one point, was also subject to this rumor. Pepsi, by the way, contrary to tradition, seems to be willing to let Coke take the kudos for this one. They have Mountain Dew rumors to contend with, though.

The Mountain Dew rumors don't have such a distinctly positive spin. Although irresponsible, gullible, and stupid teenagers (aren't they all stupid?) might see these reported effects as a golden opportunity, the actual details are a bit scary. Several claims have been circulated.4 The most popular, it would seem, is the first:

  • Mountain Dew shrinks a male's testicles — Makes them shrivel up.
  • Mountain Dew shrinks a male's penis.
  • Mountain Dew lowers sperm count in males.
  • Mountain Dew is just generally a good contraceptive if you drink it before having sex.

There is no way of knowing how many unwanted babies were born because of this and similar contraception rumors. In their book Did You Hear About The Girl Who . . . ?: Contemporary Legends, Folklore, and Human Sexuality, authors Mariamne H. Whatley and Elissa R. Henken wrote of a Planned Parenthood speaker who, concerned about this myth, wrote in to "Dear Abby" and asked her to help set the record straight, as some teenagers really were using Mountain Dew as a contraceptive. If so, this myth is certainly dangerous. Mountain Dew obviously never meant its product to be used for birth control, but this potentially harmful claim may have actually increased sells of the soft drink.

With the Mountain Dew myths, specific ingredients have been claimed to be the contraceptive agent. Caffeine, which Mountain Dew contains a lot of, was one of them. This one, however, it very easy to debunk, since caffeine is in no way known to be a contraceptive, and sperm actually get more frisky on it! However, Yellow No. 5 food dye has been the main ingredient said to the active ingredient. Since so many artificial food colors have been the subject of speculations about harmful effects, and since they have not been studied as extensively as caffeine, such rumors are harder to easily dismiss. Yellow No. 5, is actually the least abundant ingredient in Mountain Dew. The Yellow 5 rumors have extended beyond Mountain Dew to other products, both beverages, and foods, with some males avoiding anything that contains the dye.3

I've already reported on a similar soft-drink myth, concerning Tropical Fantasy being owned by the KKK an containing and ingredient that sterilized black men.

1. Felton, Bruce. What Were They Thinking?: Really Bad Ideas throughout History. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2003.
2. Gullotta, Thomas P., Gerald R. Adams, Carol A. Markstrom, and Gerald R. Adams. The Adolescent Experience. San Diego, CA: Academic, 2000.
3. Whatley, Mariamne H., and Elissa R. Henken. Did You Hear about the Girl Who—?: Contemporary Legends, Folklore, and Human Sexuality. New York: New York UP, 2000.
4. Toropov, Brandon. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Urban Legends. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha, 2001.

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