BOSTON – Deborah Anderson had heard the urban legends about the contraceptive effectiveness of Coca-Cola products for years. So she and her colleagues decided to put the soft drink to the test. In the lab, that is. For discovering that, yes indeed, Coke was a spermicide, Anderson and her team are among this year’s winners of the Ig Nobel Prize, the annual award given by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine for oddball but often surprisingly practical scientific achievements.
The ceremony at Harvard University, in which actual Nobel laureates bestow the awards, also honored a British psychologist who found that foods 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. Anderson, a 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 New England Journal of Medicine in 1985. “We’re thrilled to win an Ig Nobel, because the study was somewhat of a parody in the first place,” said Anderson, who added that she does not recommend using Coke for birth control purposes. A group of Taiwanese doctors were honored for a similar study that found Coca-Cola and other soft drinks were not effective contraceptives. Anderson said the studies used different methodology.
A Coca-Cola spokeswoman refused comment on the Ig Nobel awards.