Some of the foods we eat might offer other, improbable benefits or uses. And those discoveries eventually become news and award-worthy. So, bear with me while I get to the point of this all.
Few would say the consumption of Diet Coke offers any real benefits. Sure, to soft drink addicts, it allows us to indulge without packing on any calories (never mind that we often couple that serving of Diet Coke with a large tub of popcorn – extra butter – or a plate of cheesy nachos or french fries), and we get a caffeine kick to boot. And it tastes a helluva lot better than Tab, its predecessor in the diet soda realm before it debuted in 1982.
But we humans are weird – our curiosity seems to make us want to see if something is good for anything else, just for the heck of it. Why in the world would someone figure out that WD-40 – a fantastic product to fix squeaky doors – would make a great fish attractant if you sprayed it on your bait? So, it’s not so big a surprise that there would be someone who, while drinking a can of Diet Coke, begins to wonder what the carbonated soda would be good for than mixing with rum?
But Diet Coke as a contraceptive? Boston University Professor Deborah Anderson had heard the urban legends about the contraceptive effectiveness of Coca-Cola products for years. In 1985, she and her colleagues decided to put the soft drink to the test.
Not in actual postcoital settings – no, that would be weird, right? But in a laboratory setting, the professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University’s School of Medicine and her colleagues found that not only was Coca-Cola a spermicide, but that Diet Coke for some reason worked best. Their study appeared in the prestgious New England Journal of Medicine in 1985.
Here is what some of that study noted:
Postcoital douching with household substances was a popular form of contraception at the beginning of this century, and Coca-Cola is still said to be used in developing countries for this purpose.
There has recently been controversy over the attributes of old-formula (’Classic’) Coke and those of “New Coke.’ We therefore compared the effect of various modern formulations of Coca-Cola on sperm motility…All samples of Coca-Cola markedly reduced sperm motility, whereas [a saltwater control solution] had no spermicidal effect.
And they concluded:
The effectiveness of Coca-Cola as a spermicidal agent in vaginal douching has been attributed to its acidic pH.
Apparently Diet Coke was the most effective of all the Coke products. Perhaps cane sugar or high-fructose corn syrup is no match for aspartame when it comes to killing sperm. Who knows?
So, why is this 23-year-old study back in the news? Well, because Anderson and her brethren were recently honored among this year’s winners of the Ig Nobel prize, the annual award given by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine to oddball but often surprisingly practical scientific achievements.
The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.
The gala ceremony was held Oct. 2 in Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, 1200 splendidly eccentric spectators watch the winners step forward to accept their Prizes. These are physically handed out by genuinely bemused genuine Nobel Laureates.
The 2008 ceremony also honored a British psychologist who found foods (such as potato chips) that sound better taste better; a group of researchers who discovered exotic dancers make more money when they are at peak fertility; and a pair of Brazilian archaeologists who determined armadillos can change the course of history.
Oh, sure, you might think that some of these studies are frivolous. Maybe they are, when compared to embryonnic stem cell research. But a lot of this, after we chuckle a bit, is good stuff to know.
Women, it’s good for you to know that keeping a supply of Diet Coke in the frig could good, last-resort birth control – especially after a night of too many lemon drop shots. And men, if you’re going to be irresponsible and not carry a condom while plying women with lemon drop shots, be man enough to pick up a six-pack of Diet Coke before going back for an evening of unbridled lust.
Not Diet Pepsi, not Sprite, not Mellow Yellow. But Diet Coke.
Just a little news to chew on.