MadSci Network: Medicine


Date: Fri May 23 15:47:23 2003
Posted By: Frederick Sweet, Ph.D., Professor, Ob-Gyn, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis MO
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 1053531283.Me


Yellow No. 5 , for which its chemical name is tartrazine, is a coloring dye approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for giving a bright lemon yellow color to various foods, beverages, candy, ice cream, drugs, and cosmetics . Used since 1916, Yellow No. 5 has long been accepted as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. The teen age rumor about Yellow No. 5 seems to center on the popular drink made by Pepsico, Mountain Dew.

The molecular structure of tartrazine, Yellow No. 5 is --

From the chemical point of view, tartrazine is an extremely stable molecule which may account for both its relative lack of toxicty and also the fact that it comes out of the body pretty much as it goes in: YELLOW. As a highly water soluble salt, it probably passes effeciently through the kidneys and out.

The silly school yard rumor has gone so far as to claim that Mountain Dew prevents pregnancy because it reduces sperm count or sperm motility. Not true. This misinformation is obviously dangerous. Those who foolishly drink a few bottles of Mountain Dew so that they can have "safe" sex are bound to become foolish parents.

The rumor goes back to the mid-1990s, at least. Variants over time have included the belief that Mountain Dew causes young males' testicles to shrink and/or their penises to shrivel. Where these notions came from is unclear, but they resemble tales going even further back (at least a decade) among African Americans about companies allegedly owned by the Ku Klux Klan or other racist organizations putting sterility-causing ingredients in foods and beverages popular with black people. But unless the label would warn Whites about this "hazard" how could it possibly work?

Because tons of Yellow No. 5 has been used in hundreds of American food and drink products for nearly 100 years, if it were shrinking penises and testes, or knocking sperm counts down we'd probably have heard something more than rumors about it by now.

The FDA's established acceptable daily intake [ADI] for Yellow No. 5, tartrazine is 5.0 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day. This is about 0.01 ounces for a 132-pound person. Many other common food products contain Yellow No. 5 as well, so more than just Mountain Dew drinkers would notice the effect if it were real.

Soft drinks don't contain a significantly larger amount of Yellow No. 5 than other food products. The FDA has required since 1979 that food and drugs containing Yellow No. 5 be labeled to indicate its presence. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires similar labeling for meat and poultry. But that requirement came about because tartrazine was found to be associated with a variety of allergic type reactions in sensitive people, not because it wreaked havoc with the male reproductive system.

Most likely, the Yellow No. 5/Mountain Dew rumor keeps going because male drinkers of the stuff notice that their urine can become intensely yellow. Well, think about it. What goes into your mouth comes out somewhere else. Because tartrazine tends not to be changed in the body, it exits the body through the kidneys into the bladder in urine as it entered the body" bright yellow. By the way, girls who take in Yellow No. 5 will similarly produce intensely yellow urine. However, adolescent and college male youth seem more taken up with the penis- testis-sperm association of yellow urine than are their female counterparts.

Pepsico, the makers of Mountain Dew, has become so distressed by this rumor that they put up a special Homepage to answer questions about it.

Be that as it may, be sure to spread the fact that Mountain Dew or any other substance containing Yellow No. 5 cannot possibly be a contraceptive. All it does is make food, drinks and urine turn yellow.

The spread of falsehoods about Mountain Dew among teenagers has some health care officials worried. The state of Wisconsin issued a warning to parents recently that the rumor could result in unwanted pregnancies if it goes unchallenged. Marjorie Saltzman, a longtime Planned Parenthood volunteer in Portland, Oregon, has lobbied PepsiCo to address the misinformation through advertising or special warning labels, so far without success. The company claims it has never received a consumer inquiry or complaint about the rumor.

To find out which are the real contraceptives that work contact Planned Parenthood of America. They'll tell you the truth.

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