This week there was an interesting article in the New York Times regarding a savvy teenager who goggled an unrecognizable ingredient in the bottle of Gatorade she was drinking: brominated vegetable oil.
After reading a long list of side effects from BVO including neurological disorders and alteration of thyroid hormones, Sarah Kavanagh started a nonprofit web site to persuade PepsiCo to consider changing the formulation of Gatorade.
Leave it to a responsible teenager to give a call out to a company to change the way they operate and be responsible for food safety.
BVO is added to about 10% of sodas sold in the US and was first patented as a flame retardant by chemical companies. Besides Gatorade, you can find it in Mountain Dew, Powerade, Fanta Orange and Fresca and Squirt and Sunkist Peach Soda.
Other sources of bromine include bakery goods and some flours with the code words “dough conditioner” also known as potassium bromate.
Medications that contain bromate are Atrovent (inhaler and nasal spray), and Pro-Banthine (ulcers).
BVO can also be found in pesticides used mainly on strawberries in California. Non-food items that contain it are fire retardants used in fabrics, carpets, and upholstery and mattresses, plastics, hot tubs and swimming pool treatments.
Why should you care about BVO?
Bromines are a group of endocrine disruptors. When bromine is ingested it can displace iodine, which in turn can increase risk of cancers of the breast, thyroid and prostrate.
Besides being a central nervous system depressant, bromide can be associated with skin rashes, acne, fatigue, and headaches.
Finally since iodine is critical for proper thyroid function, consuming these drinks on a regular basis may in fact affect how the thyroid operates which can throw one’s whole system off.
I have to wonder if ingredients like this and others are contributing to increasing hormonal, metabolic and medical problems in our youth. It seems not a coincidence that I have seen more children and adolescents than ever before in the history of my practice.
Take home message?
Read the ingredients of what you are consuming – whether food or beverage – and if you can’t recognize or pronounce something, best to leave it on the shelf until you have more information.
Until we boycott these products, big companies will continue to pollute our food supply, making unexplainable health issues more prominent and leaving room for more toxic ingredients that have nothing to do with food or nutrition.
Kudos to Sarah Cavanagh for taking the approach of being an informed consumer, and hopefully her generation will continue her lead in responsibility to health!