A shocking bit of misinformation has captured the hearts and minds of high school and college students of late, the notion that the popular U.S. soft drink Mountain Dew can be used as a contraceptive.
It is widely believed among people in this age group, apparently, that drinking Mountain Dew "kills sperm cells" or, at minimum, drastically lowers one's sperm count. There are some who fear this may cause impotency, while others seem to 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 rumor about Mountain Dew "boomeranged across the country from Oregon to Washington, D.C., and from Texas to Montana." Its currency continues to perplex health care officials, not to mention PepsiCo, the manufacturer of the allegedly spermicidal soft drink.
"This is an urban myth," says Jonathon Harris, a public affairs manager in the company. He likens it people believing Elvis is still alive and claiming to have bumped into him in a convenience store — i.e., not merely false, but, in Harris's words, "absurd, unfounded and ridiculous."
True believers attribute the soft drink's purported sperm-killing 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.