Although the Pepsico company, manufacturers of Gatorade sport/energy beverages, claims their action is not the result of a recent petition on the Change.org site, we are all free to draw our own conclusions. The giant soft drink producer has, nonetheless, agreed to remove the controversial ingredient, brominated vegetable oil, from Gatorade. Concern by the public over this additive—which Pepsico uses as an emulsifier, to even out the taste of some flavors, notably orange and citrus—as being unsafe is still, no doubt, the main impetus behind its removal. When consumers react by purchasing less of a product, certainly the manufacturers have to make changes in either marketing or production to boost sales again. This isn’t, therefore, a move by Pepsico to enhance the healthiness of Gatorade; rather, the bottom line is money.
Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, has been banned already by Japan and the European Union, considering that it is also a flame retardant. Seriously, no matter what else you may be willing to ingest, does it make sense to drink a flame retardant unless you’re a professional flame-eater in a circus act? In addition to this nice attribute, BVO has some very unpleasant effects on human health, such as skin lesions, abdominal cramps, anxiety, diarrhea, convulsions, dizziness, headaches, respiratory problems, and a whole long list that would send many people to an emergency room in a hurry.
Oh, but wait—as many would claim, the FDA has not banned this substance, so it must be alright unless consumed by the bucketful, right? Considering the amount of soft drinks, energy drinks, etc. the average American drinks daily—often up to a couple liters—that does amount to a bucketful. The element bromide, of which BVO is composed, is a halide which has an accumulative effect in tissue. This chemical is known to suppress the thyroid gland’s function. As there is a growing concern among physicians in this country over the trend toward hypothyroidism (including the sub-clinical variety that just manages to skirt the radar of clinical tests), more attention needs to be paid to this issue.
However, is BVO’s replacement, sucrose acetate isobutyrate (SAIB for short) such a great choice, either? Not according to a Material Safety Data Sheet at the site www.chembase.com. (See their PDF file at http://www.google.com/#q=side+effects+of+sucrose+acetate+isobutyrate&hl=en&tbo=d&ei=UeICUZiFJu_WigLZ7YHoAw&start=10&sa=N&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&bvm=bv.41524429,d.cGE&fp=8e19f5170cdec034&biw=1249&bih=511.) This MSD reports that SAIB has the effects of liver and kidney damage, if overexposure occurs, not to mention a lengthy list of other effects including photosensitivity, severe eye irritation, severe respiratory irritation if inhaled, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and can even be lethal in some cases. So, which would you rather have, BVO or SAIB, all things considered? Kind of like being offered a choice between drowning and being gored to death by a rampaging bull, right? Neither is advisable.
The best choice, of course, is to totally reject drinks containing either of these substances. Natural drinks like fresh juice, water, or milk—coming from safe sources that you know won’t adulterate the beverage with chemicals—is the ideal. If you do wish to drink something else, though, check the ingredients list first and make sure these chemicals are not included.
For more information on Pepsico’s decision to remove BVO from Gatorade, see this article in the National Post: