A SHOCKING piece of misinformation has captured the hearts and minds of high school and college students of late the notion that the popular American soft drink Mountain Dew can be used as a contraceptive.
Apparently it is widely believed among people in this age group that drinking Mountain Dew drastically lowers the sperm count in males. Some fear this may cause impotency, I am told, while others view it as a cheap and easy method of birth control.
Lest you think I'm joking, in 1999 the Wall Street Journal reported that in the fall of that year this notion "boomeranged across the country from Oregon to Washington, D.C., and from Texas to Montana." Its popularity continues to perplex health care officials, not to mention the manufacturer of Mountain Dew, PepsiCo.
"This is an urban myth," says Jonathon Harris, a public affairs manager in the company. He likens the rumor to stories of people seeing Elvis alive and well in some random convenience store i.e., not merely false, but "absurd, unfounded and ridiculous."
True believers attribute the soft drink's purported spermicidal properties to its relatively high caffeine content (55 mg. per 12 oz. can, versus 45.6 mg. in Coke and 37.2 mg. in Pepsi) and/or the presence of a coloring agent named Yellow Dye No. 5, but there's nothing in the scientific literature to support either claim. The FDA determined long ago that Yellow Dye No. 5 poses no physiological threat to non-allergic people, and, as for caffeine, there's evidence to suggest it actually increases the motility and efficacy of sperm cells, not the opposite.
These misconceptions about Mountain Dew go back to the mid-1990s, if not further. Variations on the theme have included notions like Mountain Dew causing testicles to shrink or penises to shrivel. Where these ideas came from is unclear, but they contain reverberations of stories going even further back (a decade or more) in the African American community to the effect that certain companies allegedly owned by the Ku Klux Klan or similar racist organizations have purposely added sterility-inducing ingredients to foods and beverages popular with black people.