Birth Control Reseachers Bag 2008 Ig Nobel Prize For Medicine

2007 ceremony, Ig NobelPrize winner Battle Of The Colas Takes Whole New Meaning –

Academic papers from 1987 did not hold back on spermicidal potency of Coke and Pepsi –

by Dan Bloom

BOSTON(RUSHPRNEWS)10/02/2008— A research paper by four Taiwanese professors on the spermicidal powers of Coke and Pepsi has won Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine, Marc Abrahams, who heads up the prize committee, announced today during the prize ceremony.

They joined 9 other scientists, researchers and inventors around the world who were recognized with separate prizes in other fields for their pioneering work.

Hong Chuan-ye is currently the president of Taipei Medical University’s Wan Feng Hospital in Taipei. But more than 20 years ago, back in 1987, he was one four Taiwanese co-authors of a seminal research paper that appeared in the Journal of Human Toxicology titled “The Spermicidal Potency of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola”.

coca-cola versus pepsi

Today in Boston, Hong and his co-authors — C.C. Shieh, P. Wu and Benjamin Chiang — were recipients of one of the 18th annual Ig Nobel awards at a ceremony at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater.

“The Ig Nobel prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think,” Abrahams said. “Taiwanese inventor Hsieh Kuo-cheng of Taichung won an Ig Nobel prize last year for his ‘Net Trapping System to Catch a Bank Robber'”.

Due to busy schedules in Taipei, neither Hong nor his co-authors could attend the ceremony, but Hong’s 25-year-old daughter Wan Hong, who lives in the U.S., accepted the prize on stage for the Taiwanese team.

The team shared the Ig Nobel prize with the U.S. authors of an earlier New England Journal of Medicine paper that was cited in their study and which Hong’s group disproved.

Why was the Taiwanese team’s paper selected for an Ig Nobel this year? “Because it makes people laugh, then it makes them think. And it will make them laugh and think, again, for the rest of their lives, every time they have a Coca-cola or a Pepsi,” Abrahams said in an email last week.

Hong told this reporter that the team used a “trans-membrane migration method” to study the effect of Coke on sperm in their research.

The citation for the Ig Nobel prize today reads: “To Sheree Umpierre, Joseph Hill and Deborah Anderson (in the U.S.) for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide; and (in Taiwan) to C.Y. Hong, C.C. Shieh, P. Wu and Benjamin Chiang for discovering that it is not.”

Where are the other members of Hong’s team today? Benjamin Chiang, now 80 and retired, is well-known in Taiwan because he served as a physician for former ROC presidents Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo, Hong said. Hsieh, who was Hong’s research assistant at the time, later went to the U.S. where he earned a Ph.D. and found work. Wu, who was also an assistant to Hong at the time, is now with the cardiac department at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, he said.

In the published abstract of their 1987 paper, the team at the department of medicine at Veterans General Hospital in Taipei noted: “The inhibitory effect of Old Coke, caffeine-free New Coke, New Coke, Diet Coke and Pepsi-Cola on human sperm motility was studied with a trans-membrane migration method. None of them could decrease sperm motility to less than 70 percent of control within one hour.”

Hong said he developed the trans-membrane migration method while he was in Britain pursuing his Ph.D from the University of London.

The team also noted: “A previous study [published in the New England Journal of Medicine] which claimed a marked variation of spermicidal potencies among different formulations of Coca-Cola could not be confirmed. Even if cola has a spermicidal effect, its potency is relatively weak as compared with other well-known spermicidal agents.”

They added: “Testing of various cola formulas on sperm motility using a trans-membrane procedure did not decrease motility to less than 70 percent control in a one-hour period. Diet Coca-Cola had the strongest spermicidal effect followed by Classic Coca-Cola, caffeine-free Coca-Cola and New Coca-Cola. Since there are no known substances in cola that effect cellular membranes, the results of these tests were not unusual.”

And their paper concluded: ” Other tests have been done using higher dilution of cola which could effect sperm motility and give different results for spermicidal potencies. The results show that cola has little if any spermicidal effect. Its use in postcoital douching is ineffective and could cause complications such as infection.

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes was awarded on Thursday night, October 2,at the 18th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre.

PHOTO: Alexey Eliseev.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Bloom is a RUSHPRNEWS columnist who currently resides in Taiwan, where he serves as an international volunteer on the Ig Nobel search committee every year. Email the author at danbloom@rushprnews.com