Brominated vegetable oil (also known as “BVO”) is found in sports drinks and citrus-flavored sodas. It is a chemical that keeps two liquids mixed together. It acts as a binding agent, also known as an emulsifier, and it prevents the flavoring and other ingredients found in our drinks from separating and floating to the surface.
It makes sense , on one level, as we don’t want our drinks to look like a separated salad dressing with ingredients floating to the top! But this appearance might come with a hidden side effect. According to SHAPE magazine and nutritionist Mira Calton and her husband Jayson Calton, Ph.D., “Because it competes with iodine for receptor sites in the body, elevated levels of the stuff may lead to thyroid issues, such as hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease, and cancer,” Calton says. As if that wasn’t scary enough, BVO's main ingredient, bromine, is a chemical that is considered toxic. It's been linked to all kind of health concerns, including organ system damage, birth defects, schizophrenia, and hearing loss, which explains why it's been removed or banned from food and drinks in more than 100 countries.
These health concerns and the fact that so many countries have removed BVO from their beverages was so concerning to one 15 year old that she launched an online petition that landed her in the New York Times in which she called for the removal of this ingredient from American beverages, as it’s been removed from products around the world.
Want to opt out of brominated vegetable oil here in the United States? Skip the sports drinks and choose water. And if you’re filling up your cup at the soda fountain, instead of the lemon-lime and citrus flavored drinks, consider drinking something else.
Remember, while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something. Focus on progress not perfection, and do what you can, where you are with what you have, remembering not to make “the perfect” the enemy of “the good.”