A first small step in a good direction?

Gatorade is planning to remove a controversial ingredient, Brominated Vegetable Oil, from its beverages this year. Parent company PepsiCo says the change was in the works for the last year. But it certainly must have helped that Sarah Kavanagh, a 15 year old volleyball player from Mississippi started an online petition that went viral, asking Gatorade to remove said ingredient.

A spokeswoman for Gatorade said that the change was due to consumer demand, not because of any health concerns – “we don’t find a health and safety risk with B.V.O.”

What you need to know:

BROMINATED VEGETABLE OIL is a key ingredient in artificially citrus-flavored drinks like Mountain Dew, Fresca, and some varieties of Gatorade. (But not in Europe, where it’s been banned for years.)

It serves two main functions — it is a stabilizer and also responsible for that slightly cloudy look these beverages have.

In essence, take a vegetable oil, add some bromine atoms and — voilà – you now have brominated vegetable oil. For the record, liquid bromine — also found in photo paper, car seats, mattresses, and carpeting — is corrosive and extremely hazardous to our skin and lungs.

So what’s the health risk?

Well, bromine is fat-soluble and builds up in our tissues. A 16-ounce soft drink made with brominated vegetable oil contains approximately 2 milligrams of bromine. BVO consumption in rats has been shown to cause degeneration and/or inflammation of the heart muscle, increase in bad cholesterol, and behavior changes.

Here is an entire blog post devoted to the risks of BVO and the FDA’s weak arguments in its favour.

This is the ingredient list for Gatorade G2 Orangewater, sucrose, dextrose, citric acid, natural flavor, salt, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, gum arabic, yellow 6, glycerol ester of rosin, brominated vegetable oil.

Aside from the BVO, we are looking at 5 tsp of sugar (all 80 calories in the product), no nutrients, and artificial coloring (yellow 6) to boot.

Conclusions

Sarah – you rock!

Gatorade – you don’t. Despite this positive spin, your products are, for the most part, full of unnecessary ingredients, and are marketed to a mass population that can do just as fine with water and a banana after a workout.

We’ve written extensively about Gatorade here, here, and here. If you are not an elite athlete, doing over an hour of heavy exercise at a time, you don’t need any special recovery foods or beverages.