Have you ever read the list of ingredients on your favorite bottle of juice or soda? If so, have you ever actually looked into what they really are? One student did, and her research led to the manufacturer, PepsiCo, changing what they put into one of their popular beverages.
The drink in question was Gatorade, and the harmful ingredient was a synthetic chemical known as brominated vegetable oil (BVO). It’s essentially vegetable oil that has been infused with bromine. BVO is added to a lot of citrus drinks to emulsify the flavor into the liquid—it’s what stops the flavoring from separating and floating up to the top of your drink.
BVO was originally patented as a flame retardant by chemical companies, which is why Japan and Europe have both banned their use in any foods or beverages. Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initially classified BVO as “generally recognized as safe,” but that status was revoked in 1970. Today, the FDA has only temporarily approved the limited use of the chemical in fruit-flavored drinks. But more than 30 years have passed since that change, and BVO is still on interim status, with many scientists arguing that it needs to be reevaluated on the basis of newer, more relevant research.
Studies have shown that the bromine from BVO can build up in our system. What’s worse, consuming excessive amounts of beverages that contain BVO has been shown to lead to memory loss, skin problems, headaches, fatigue, and even problems with muscle coordination—these conditions can often make you feel older than you are. They can also be even more of a problem the older you get.
In January 2013, PepsiCo announced that they were removing BVO from their orange-flavored Gatorade, replacing it with a different chemical. It was certainly a step in the right direction, albeit a small one, because it was only removed from the one drink and not all of them. Other beverages that still contain BVO are Mountain Dew, Fanta Orange, Sunkist Pineapple, Powerade Strawberry Lemonade, Squirt, and Fresca Original Citrus. Pepsi and Coca-Cola are both BVO-free.
Your safest bet is to not only cut out drinks that contain BVO, but to steer clear of any sugary beverages, including soft drinks and energy drinks, to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your anti-aging diet.
“Brominated battle: Soda chemical has cloudy health history,” Environmental Health News web site, December 12, 2011; https://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2011/brominated-battle-in-sodas.
“PepsiCo drops brominated chemical from Gatorade,” Environmental Health News web site, January 25, 2013; https://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2013/pepsico-brominated-beverages?goback=%2Egde_3756636_member_272280222#%21.
Zeratsky, K., “Brominated vegetable oil: Why is BVO in my drink?” Mayo Clinic web site; https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bvo/AN02200, last accessed September 11, 2013.