Good news about the food additive brominated vegetable oil — the Coca Cola and Pepsi companies are phasing out use of the flavoring agent in order to have a product line that is consistent across global food markets — the food additive has been prohibited from use as a food additive in Japan, India and the European Union.
“BVO is in some citrus soft drinks including Mountain Dew, Squirt, Fresca, and Fanta. It’s also in sports drinks like Powerade and some pre-mixed cocktails.” It is a food additive that is in the “same chemical family as flame-retardants like polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE).” “Early studies suggest that flame-retardant chemicals disrupt normal hormone function, leading to problems with brain development in children, fertility, thyroid function, and possibly cancer.” [http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/20130129/brominated-vegetable-oil-qa?page=2]
A study in 2012 found that in the U.S. on average we take in more BVO than PBDEs, 4000 times more for adults and 1000 times more for children. BVO was approved for general use in 1958 in the U.S. and then in the 1970s it was modified to approval for use in beverages for an “interim” time period awaiting further research — but we’re still waiting. Use of BVO as a food additive has been banned in Japan, India, and the European Union. In the U.S. it is approved for use in beverages at a level up to 15 parts per million and on average it is added at a level of 8 parts per million. There is some concern that consumers who drink larger portions of the beverages containing BVO on a more frequent basis may be receiving too much of the chemical. Read More: [http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/20130129/brominated-vegetable-oil-qa?page=2]
So how much soda per day might be enough to cause acute bromide toxicity? — Snopes.com (March 16, 2015) write-up on BVO includes two medical reports of bromide toxicity where one patient reported drinking 2 to 4 liters of BVO containing soda per day and the other reported drinking up to 8 liters per day. According to the Snopes report both the PepsiCo and Coca Cola beverage companies have been actively working to phase out use of BVO in all of their beverages. Use of BVO in the Gatorade line of beverages by PepsiCo has already been phased out. The Coca Cola company plans to have the ingredient phased out of all of their beverages by the end of 2015. The companies stand by the safety of the ingredient but also respect the individual consumer’s desire for more natural products and the value of having a product that is consistent across global markets.
Non carbonated fruit flavored beverages also may contain BVO, (citrus flavors more typically). If an adult male can develop bromide toxicity by consuming 2 to 8 liters of a beverage containing BVO per day then a child or toddler, roughly, might get sick by regularly consuming half or a quarter of that amount — or 1/4 liter to 4 liters per day (or approximately 8 ounces to 4 quarts of ‘juice drink’ per day) — however an infant or toddler may be more at risk than adults due to their having less well developed liver function and due to their brains and thyroids still being in developmental stages, so the infant or toddler drinking a BVO containing ‘juice’ drink may be more at risk than adults for having neurotoxin damage or thyroid dysfunction occur. A developing fetus may also be more at risk than adults so avoiding BVO containing beverages during pregnancy and the perinatal time period may help protect the developing infant’s brain and thyroid.
Over the long term any use of brominated products may be adding to the risk of eventually developing hypothyroidism later in life for men, women or children, so while it might be a very good idea to avoid brominated vegetable oil while pregnant or trying to get pregnant, it might also be a good idea for everyone to avoid it for the sake of their own thyroid’s health. Bromide is chemically very similar to iodine and it may be incorporated into the thyroid hormone instead of iodine in cases of long term iodine deficiency — but the molecule of bromide (or fluoride or chloride) may be making the larger molecule of the thyroid hormone no longer able to function properly — the bromide might be used to produce thyroid hormone that seems like thyroid hormone to a lab test but might not be as functional as a thyroid hormone within the body.
For more information about iodine, and the other halides/halogens: bromide, chloride and fluoride, see Dr. Brownstein’s book:
- Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It, 5th Edition: [https://www.drbrownstein.com/Iodine-Why-You-Need-It-p/iodine.htm]
- or Dr. Brownstein’s blog: “Why Does Iodine Get a Bad Rap?” [http://blog.drbrownstein.com/why-does-iodine-get-a-bad-rap/]
- The incorporation of bromide, fluoride and chloride instead of iodine may also be adding to the risk of thyroid cancer: “Rapid Increase in Thyroid Cancer,” [http://blog.drbrownstein.com/rapid-increase-in-thyroid-cancer/]
/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./BVO, Brominated vegetable oil is in the same chemical family as PBDE, a flame retardant by Jenny