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Dear Clean Plates: What is Brominated Vegetable Oil?

February 22, 2013
Check labels to make sure your drink doesn't contain brominated vegetable, a toxic additive linked to many health problems, and banned in Japan and the EU.

Dear Clean Plates,

PepsiCo recently announced it was removing brominated vegetable oil from Gatorade. What exactly is BVO, and why was it in Gatorade in the first place?

–Confused Sports Drinker

Dear CSD,

Great question. Oil of any kind doesn’t sound thirst-quenching to us, so we were also curious as to what brominated vegetable oil is and why it would be used in a beverage.

The what and why: Brominated vegetable oil is a chemical that contains bromine. It is used in citrus-flavored drinks to keep the citrus flavor evenly distributed (okaaay). Even though it will no longer be in Gatorade, Pepsi has no plans to remove it from Mountain Dew products. It’s also in Fresca, Sunkist Pineapple, Squirt, and Powerade Strawberry Lemonade (check the labels).

The good: Brominated vegetable oil has its place—stopping fires. It’s often found in flame retardant.

The bad: Where do we start? Brominated vegetable oil can cause bromine buildup in tissues, and has been linked to kidney disease, memory loss, hormone disruption and loss of muscle coordination—definitely something athletes and fitness fanatics don’t want. Oh, and BVO is banned in Japan and the European Union, in case you needed more proof that it was bad news.

The solution: Gatorade may be BVO-free, but Pepsi is replacing the chemical with another potentially harmful chemical: sucrose acetate isobutyrate. Your best bet is to keep your body properly hydrated the natural way: with pure, clean water and the occasional coconut water.

Just say no to BVO.


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