Skip to content

Food & Recipes

Brominated Vegetable Oil Q&A

Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 30, 2013 -- PepsiCo recently announced it would remove brominated vegetable oil (BVO) from its Gatorade drinks in response to customer concerns.  

Just what is BVO? And what is it doing in your sports drink?

To learn more, we reached out to food chemists Kantha Shelke, PhD, a Chicago scientist who consults with food companies to develop new products, and Walter Vetter, PhD, who is studying BVO at the University of Hohenheim in Germany.

What is BVO?

Brominated vegetable oil is a synthetic chemical that is created when vegetable oil is bonded to the element bromine. Bromine is heavy, and it keeps the oil from floating to the top of water-based solutions, like soft drinks.

Why is BVO in some kinds of drinks?

Citrus flavors -- orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit -- are oily. “When you put them on a soda or in a beverage, they tend to sit on top of the drink. They are not dispersed all the way through,” Shelke says. BVO acts as an emulsifier, meaning it helps the citrus flavors mix better in the soft drink. Drinks that contain BVO usually look hazy or cloudy.

Why are there concerns about BVO?

In very high amounts drunk over a long period of time, BVO can build up in the body and cause toxic effects.

In 1997, doctors were stumped by the case of a man who came to the emergency room with headaches, fatigue, and a loss of muscle coordination and memory. He continued to get worse over time, and eventually he lost the ability to walk. A blood test found sky-high levels of bromide. The source? The man had been drinking between 2 and 4 liters of soda containing brominated vegetable oil every day. He needed dialysis but eventually recovered.

In 2003, doctors treated a man who developed swollen hands with oozing sores. They diagnosed a rare case of the skin condition bromoderma after blood tests revealed his bromine was about twice normal limits. The man admitted drinking about 8 liters of Ruby Red Squirt, which contains BVO, each day.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Four spoons with mustards
What condiments are made of and how much to use.
salmon and spinach
How to get what you need.
 
grilled veggies
Easy ideas for dinner tonight.
Greek Salad
Health benefits, what you can eat and more.
 

WebMD Recipe Finder

Browse our collection of healthy, delicious recipes, from WebMD and Eating Well magazine.



bread
Recipes
soup
Recipes
 
roasted chicken
Recipes
grilled steak
Video
 

Loaded with tips to help you avoid food allergy triggers.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

vegetarian sandwich
Recipes
fresh vegetables
Recipes
 
smoothie
fitArticle
Foods To Boost Mens Heath Slideshow
Slideshow